Articles | Volume 11, issue 3
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 11, 955–962, 2011
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 11, 955–962, 2011

Research article 02 Feb 2011

Research article | 02 Feb 2011

Hydroxyl in the stratosphere and mesosphere – Part 1: Diurnal variability

K. Minschwaner1, G. L. Manney1,2, S. H. Wang2, and R. S. Harwood3 K. Minschwaner et al.
  • 1Department of Physics, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, USA
  • 2Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, USA
  • 3University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

Abstract. Diurnal variations in hydroxyl (OH) in the stratosphere and mesosphere are analyzed using measurements from the Aura Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS). The primary driver for OH diurnal variations is the ultraviolet actinic flux that initiates the photochemical production of reactive hydrogen species. The magnitude of this flux is governed largely by changes in solar zenith angle (SZA) throughout the day, and OH diurnal variations are well approximated by an exponential function of the secant of SZA. Measured OH concentrations are fit to a function of the form exp[−βsec(SZA)], where the parameter β is a function of altitude. We examine the magnitude of β and show that it is related to the optical depths of ultraviolet absorption by ozone and molecular oxygen. Values of β from SLIMCAT model simulations show the same vertical structure as those from MLS and the average level of agreement between model and measurements is 6%. The vertical profile of β from MLS can be represented by a simple analytic formulation involving the ozone and water vapor photodissociation rates. This formulation is used to infer the altitude dependence of the primary production mechanisms for OH: the reaction of excited-state atomic oxygen with water vapor versus the direct photodissociation of water vapor.

Final-revised paper