Neutral atmospheric influences of the solar proton events in October–November 2003



[1] The large solar storms in October–November 2003 caused solar proton events (SPEs) at the Earth and impacted the middle atmospheric polar cap regions. Although occurring near the end of the maximum of solar cycle 23, the fourth largest period of SPEs measured in the past 40 years happened 28–31 October 2003. The highly energetic protons associated with the SPEs produced ionizations, excitations, dissociations, and dissociative ionizations of the background constituents, which led to the production of odd hydrogen (HOx) and odd nitrogen (NOy). NOx (NO + NO2) was observed by the UARS HALOE instrument to increase over 20 ppbv throughout the Southern Hemisphere polar lower mesosphere. The NOAA 16 SBUV/2 instrument measured a short-term ozone depletion of 40% in the Southern Hemisphere polar lower mesosphere, probably a result of the HOx increases. SBUV/2 observations showed ozone depletions of 5–8% in the southern polar upper stratosphere lasting days beyond the events, most likely a result of the NOy enhancements. Longer-term Northern Hemisphere polar total ozone decreases of >0.5% were predicted to last for over 8 months past the events with the Goddard Space Flight Center two-dimensional model. Although the production of NOy constituents is the same in both hemispheres, the NOy constituents have a much larger impact in the northern than the southern polar latitudes because of the seasonal differences between the two hemispheres. These observations and model computations illustrate the substantial impact of solar protons on the polar neutral middle atmosphere.