Articles | Volume 16, issue 4
Research article
26 Feb 2016
Research article |  | 26 Feb 2016

Change in turbopause altitude at 52 and 70° N

Chris M. Hall, Silje E. Holmen, Chris E. Meek, Alan H. Manson, and Satonori Nozawa

Abstract. The turbopause is the demarcation between atmospheric mixing by turbulence (below) and molecular diffusion (above). When studying concentrations of trace species in the atmosphere, and particularly long-term change, it may be important to understand processes present, together with their temporal evolution that may be responsible for redistribution of atmospheric constituents. The general region of transition between turbulent and molecular mixing coincides with the base of the ionosphere, the lower region in which molecular oxygen is dissociated, and, at high latitude in summer, the coldest part of the whole atmosphere.

This study updates previous reports of turbopause altitude, extending the time series by half a decade, and thus shedding new light on the nature of change over solar-cycle timescales. Assuming there is no trend in temperature, at 70° N there is evidence for a summer trend of  ∼  1.6 km decade−1, but for winter and at 52° N there is no significant evidence for change at all. If the temperature at 90 km is estimated using meteor trail data, it is possible to estimate a cooling rate, which, if applied to the turbopause altitude estimation, fails to alter the trend significantly irrespective of season.

The observed increase in turbopause height supports a hypothesis of corresponding negative trends in atomic oxygen density, [O]. This supports independent studies of atomic oxygen density, [O], using mid-latitude time series dating from 1975, which show negative trends since 2002.

Short summary
Turbulent energy dissipation rates are calculated using MF-radar signals from 70 and 52° N for the period 2001–2014 inclusive, and they are used to estimate turbopause altitudes. A positive trend in turbopause altitude is identified for 70° N in summer, but not in winter and not at 52° N. The turbopause altitude change between 2001 and 2014 can be used to hypothesize a corresponding change in atomic oxygen concentration.
Final-revised paper