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Title: Resolving the strange behavior of extraterrestrial potassium in the upper atmosphere
Authors: Plane, J. M. C.Feng, W.Dawkins, E.Chipperfield, M. P.Höffner, J.Janches, D.Marsh, D. R.
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Issue Date: 2014
Published in: Geophysical research letters, Volume 41, Issue 13, Page 4753-4760
Publisher: Hoboken, NJ : Wiley
Abstract: It has been known since the 1960s that the layers of Na and K atoms, which occur between 80 and 105 km in the Earth's atmosphere as a result of meteoric ablation, exhibit completely different seasonal behavior. In the extratropics Na varies annually, with a pronounced wintertime maximum and summertime minimum. However, K varies semiannually with a small summertime maximum and minima at the equinoxes. This contrasting behavior has never been satisfactorily explained. Here we use a combination of electronic structure and chemical kinetic rate theory to determine two key differences in the chemistries of K and Na. First, the neutralization of K+ ions is only favored at low temperatures during summer. Second, cycling between K and its major neutral reservoir KHCO3 is essentially temperature independent. A whole atmosphere model incorporating this new chemistry, together with a meteor input function, now correctly predicts the seasonal behavior of the K layer.
Keywords: potassium layer; mesospheric metal; meteoric ablation
DDC: 550
License: CC BY 3.0 Unported
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