Derivation of neutral oxygen density under charge exchange in the midlatitude topside ionosphere

L. S. Waldrop, E. Kudeki, S. A. González, M. P. Sulzer, R. Garcia, M. Butala, F. Kamalabadi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We describe a new technique to derive neutral atomic oxygen density, [O], in the upper thermosphere using coincident incoherent scatter radar (ISR) and airglow emission observations from Arecibo Observatory. The technique exploits the nearly resonant charge exchange coupling between neutral and ionized hydrogen and oxygen that serves as the dominant chemical source and sink of protons near and above the F region peak. Under charge exchange production and loss of H+, the proton continuity equation can be solved for [O] using twilight H density profiles derived from measured H emission brightness at 656.3 nm together with ion density, temperature, and flux obtained simultaneously by the Arecibo ISR. We present both equilibrium and nonequilibrium solutions for [O] between 500 and 1500 km during a single quiescent nighttime interval under moderate solar activity. Comparisons with theoretical expectations and with MSIS-model calculations of O density are used to identify the altitude and local time extent over which the technique is justified. These comparisons generally support .technique validity between ∼600 and 800 km, where sufficient reactant densities are present to validate the charge exchange formulation of the continuity equation. Equilibrium solutions for [O] near 650-700 km exhibit excellent agreement with MSIS estimates before midnight, but deviations arising from ion transport become increasingly significant both above this height and as dawn approaches. Incorporation of measured proton flux gradients into the nonequilibrium solutions improves agreement between the derived and modeled estimates significantly after midnight, while the minor nonequilibrium contributions during several hours before midnight lend additional support for the presence of charge exchange equilibrium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA11308
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Derivation of neutral oxygen density under charge exchange in the midlatitude topside ionosphere'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this