Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

A global model of meteoric sodium


Corresponding author: D. R. Marsh, Atmospheric Chemistry Division, National Center for Atmospheric Research, PO Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307-3000, USA. (email:


[1] A global model of sodium in the mesosphere and lower thermosphere has been developed within the framework of the National Center for Atmospheric Research's Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (WACCM). The standard fully interactive WACCM chemistry module has been augmented with a chemistry scheme that includes nine neutral and ionized sodium species. Meteoric ablation provides the source of sodium in the model and is represented as a combination of a meteoroid input function (MIF) and a parameterized ablation model. The MIF provides the seasonally and latitudinally varying meteoric flux which is modeled taking into consideration the astronomical origins of sporadic meteors and considers variations in particle entry angle, velocity, mass, and the differential ablation of the chemical constituents. WACCM simulations show large variations in the sodium constituents over time scales from days to months. Seasonality of sodium constituents is strongly affected by variations in the MIF and transport via the mean meridional wind. In particular, the summer to winter hemisphere flow leads to the highest sodium species concentrations and loss rates occurring over the winter pole. In the Northern Hemisphere, this winter maximum can be dramatically affected by stratospheric sudden warmings. Simulations of the January 2009 major warming event show that it caused a short-term decrease in the sodium column over the polar cap that was followed by a factor of 3 increase in the following weeks. Overall, the modeled distribution of atomic sodium in WACCM agrees well with both ground-based and satellite observations. Given the strong sensitivity of the sodium layer to dynamical motions, reproducing its variability provides a stringent test of global models and should help to constrain key atmospheric variables in this poorly sampled region of the atmosphere.