All Physics Faculty Publications

Photochemistry on the Bottom Side of the Mesospheric Na Layer

Tao Yuan, Utah State University
Wuhu Feng, University of Leeds
John M. C. Plane, University of Leeds
Daniel R. Marsh, University of Leeds


Lidar observations of the mesospheric Na layer have revealed considerable diurnal variations, particularly on the bottom side of the layer, where more than an order-of-magnitude increase in Na density has been observed below 80 km after sunrise. In this paper, multi-year Na lidar observations are utilized over a full diurnal cycle at Utah State University (USU) (41.8∘ N, 111.8∘ W) and a global atmospheric model of Na with 0.5 km vertical resolution in the mesosphere and lower thermosphere (WACCM-Na) to explore the dramatic changes of Na density on the bottom side of the layer. Photolysis of the principal reservoir NaHCO3 is shown to be primarily responsible for the increase in Na after sunrise, amplified by the increased rate of reaction of NaHCO3 with atomic H, which is mainly produced from the photolysis of H2O and the reaction of OH with O3. This finding is further supported by Na lidar observation at USU during the solar eclipse (>96 % totality) event on 21 August 2017, when a decrease and recovery of the Na density on the bottom side of the layer were observed. Lastly, the model simulation shows that the Fe density below around 80 km increases more strongly and earlier than observed Na changes during sunrise because of the considerably faster photolysis rate of its major reservoir of FeOH.