Articles | Volume 25, issue 1
01 Feb 2007
 | 01 Feb 2007

Coincident extremely large sporadic sodium and sporadic E layers observed in the lower thermosphere over Colorado and Utah

B. P. Williams, F. T. Berkey, J. Sherman, and C. Y. She

Abstract. On the night of 2 June 2002, the sodium lidar in Fort Collins, CO (40.6 N, 105 W) measured an extremely strong sporadic sodium layer lasting from 03:30 to 05:00 UT with several weaker layers later in the night at 06:00 and 09:00 UT. There is a double layer structure with peaks at 101 and 104 km. The peak sodium density was 21 000 atoms/cm3 with a column abundance of up to twice that of the normal sodium layer. The peak density was 500 times greater than the typical density at that altitude. The sporadic layer abundance and strength factor were higher than any reported in the literature. The two lidar beams, separated by 70 km at this altitude, both measured 0.6 h periodicities in the abundance, but out of phase with each other by 0.3 h. There is also evidence for strong wave activity in the lidar temperatures and winds. The NOAA ionosonde in Boulder, CO (40.0 N, 105 W) measured a critical frequency (foEs) of 14.3 MHz at 03:00 UT on this night, the highest value anytime during 2002. The high values of total ion density inferred means that Na+ fraction must have been only a few percent to explain the neutral Na layer abundances. The Bear Lake, Utah (41.9 N, 111.4 W) dynasonde also measured intense Es between 02:00 and 05:00 UT and again from 06:00 to 08:00 UT about 700 km west of the lidar, with most of the ionograms during these intervals measuring Es up to 12 MHz, the limit of the ionosonde sweep. Other ionosondes around North America on the NGDC database measured normal foEs values that night, so it was a localized event within North America. The peak of Es activity observed in Europe during the summer of 2002 occurred on 4 June. The observations are consistent with the current theories where a combination of wind shears and long period waves form and push downward a concentrated layer of ions, which then chemically react and form a narrow layer of sodium atoms.