Simulating Nitric Oxide in the lower thermosphere using a 3D model
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Nitric oxide (NO), despite being a minor species, influences the chemistry, composition and energy balance of the earth's atmosphere above 90 kilometers. Variations in its density have been shown to strongly correlate with solar x-ray irradiance at lower latitudes and precipitating energetic particles at higher latitudes. Though the broad variations in NO densities with altitude and latitude are well known, there are still uncertainties associated with its chemistry. It is important to accurately model NO and its associated chemistry in an atmospheric model in order to obtain an accurate representation of the thermosphere. The NCAR Thermosphere-Ionosphere-Electrodynamics General Circulation Model (TIEGCM) is a three dimensional first principles based model which includes a self consistent aeronomic scheme that solves for winds, temperatures and densities of various neutral and charged species in the earth's upper atmosphere. Using a combination of the solar irradiance spectrum and solar indices as inputs, the model computes these outputs at every time step. The ability of the TIEGCM to predict NO densities in the thermosphere is examined by comparing results from the model with data obtained from the Student Nitric Oxide Explorer (SNOE). The comparisons are made for the year 1999 at 110 km and 150 km at the equator. Changes are made to the NO chemistry present in the model to reflect recent results obtained from laboratory data. Paricularly, the reaction of atomic oxygen with the first excited electronic state of nitrogen, N 2 (A) has been shown to play an important role in the production of NO. These changes are introduced to the model and their effect on NO densities is studied. Overall, it is seen that the updated chemistry scheme reduces the model agreement with the SNOE data at 110 km while slightly improving the agreement at a 150 km. The loss of agreement at 110 km is attributed to the fact that the neutral temperatures and atomic oxygen densities calculated by the TIEGCM are in sharp disagreement to the temperatures predicted by the NRL-MSIS at a 110 km, on which the new chemistry scheme is based. While the chemistry scheme used in this thesis is a step in the right direction for modelling NO using the TIEGCM, the parameters used were determined from the best fit obtained from the 1-D NO model. In the light of the differences between the NRL-MSIS and TIEGCM, it is necessary to return to the laboratory data and modify the parameters used here to achieve a better agreement with the data.
- Masters Theses