Atomic oxygen in the mesosphere and lower thermosphere derived from SABER: Algorithm theoretical basis and measurement uncertainty

Martin G. Mlynczak, Linda A. Hunt, Jeffrey C. Mast, B. Thomas Marshall, James M. Russell, Anne K. Smith, David E. Siskind, Jeng Hwa Yee, Christopher J. Mertens, F. Javier Martin-Torres, R. Earl Thompson, Douglas P. Drob, Larry L. Gordley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Citations (Scopus)


Atomic oxygen (O) is a fundamental component in chemical aeronomy of Earth's mesosphere and lower thermosphere region extending from approximately 50 km to over 100 km in altitude. Atomic oxygen is notoriously difficult to measure, especially with remote sensing techniques from orbiting satellite sensors. It is typically inferred from measurements of the ozone concentration in the day or from measurements of the Meinel band emission of the hydroxyl radical (OH) at night. The Sounding of the Atmosphere using Broadband Emission Radiometry (SABER) instrument on the NASA Thermosphere-Ionosphere-Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics (TIMED) satellite measures OH emission and ozone for the purpose of determining the O-atom concentration. In this paper, we present the algorithms used in the derivation of day and night atomic oxygen from these measurements. We find excellent consistency between the day and night O-atom concentrations from daily to annual time scales. We also examine in detail the collisional relaxation of the highly vibrationally excited OH molecule at night measured by SABER. Large rate coefficients for collisional removal of vibrationally excited OH molecules by atomic oxygen are consistent with the SABER observations if the deactivation of OH(9) proceeds solely by collisional quenching. An uncertainty analysis of the derived atomic oxygen is also given. Uncertainty in the rate coefficient for recombination of O and molecular oxygen is shown to be the largest source of uncertainty in the derivation of atomic oxygen day or night.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5724-5735
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Jun 16 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Airglow
  • Atomic oxygen
  • Energy budget
  • Mesopause
  • Ozone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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