Articles | Volume 33, issue 6
Regular paper
17 Jun 2015
Regular paper |  | 17 Jun 2015

Hydroxyl layer: trend of number density and intra-annual variability

G. R. Sonnemann, P. Hartogh, U. Berger, and M. Grygalashvyly

Abstract. The layer of vibrationally excited hydroxyl (OH*) near the mesopause in Earth's atmosphere is widely used to derive the temperature at this height and to observe dynamical processes such as gravity waves. The concentration of OH* is controlled by the product of atomic hydrogen, with ozone creating a layer of enhanced concentration in the mesopause region. However, the basic influences on the OH* layer are atomic oxygen and temperature. The long-term monitoring of this layer provides information on a changing atmosphere. It is important to know which proportion of a trend results from anthropogenic impacts on the atmosphere and which proportion reflects natural variations. In a previous paper (Grygalashvyly et al., 2014), the trend of the height of the layer and the trend in temperature were investigated particularly in midlatitudes on the basis of our coupled dynamic and chemical transport model LIMA (Leibniz Institute Middle Atmosphere). In this paper we consider the trend for the number density between the years 1961 and 2009 and analyze the reason of the trends on a global scale. Further, we consider intra-annual variations. Temperature and wind have the strongest impacts on the trend. Surprisingly, the increase in greenhouse gases (GHGs) has no clear influence on the chemistry of OH*. The main reason for this lies in the fact that, in the production term of OH*, if atomic hydrogen increases due to increasing humidity of the middle atmosphere by methane oxidation, ozone decreases. The maximum of the OH* layer is found in the mesopause region and is very variable. The mesopause region is a very intricate domain marked by changeable dynamics and strong gradients of all chemically active minor constituents determining the OH* chemistry. The OH* concentration responds, in part, very sensitively to small changes in these parameters. The cause for this behavior is given by nonlinear reactions of the photochemical system being a nonlinear enforced chemical oscillator driven by the diurnal-periodic solar insolation. At the height of the OH* layer the system operates in the vicinity of chemical resonance. The solar cycle is mirrored in the data, but the long-term behavior due to the trend in the Lyman-α radiation is very small. The number density shows distinct hemispheric differences. The calculated OH* values show sometimes a step around a certain year. We introduce a method to find out the date of this step and discuss a possible reason for such behavior.