Formation of stratospheric nitric acid by a hydrated ion cluster reaction: Implications for the effect of energetic particle precipitation on the middle atmosphere


Corresponding author: O.-K. Kvissel, Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo, NO-0315 Oslo, Norway. (


[1] In order to improve our understanding of the effects of energetic particle precipitation on the middle atmosphere and in particular upon the nitrogen family and ozone, we have modeled the chemical and dynamical middle atmosphere response to the introduction of a chemical pathway that produces HNO3 by conversion of N2O5 upon hydrated water clusters H+·(H2O)n. We have used an ensemble of simulations with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Whole-Atmosphere Community Climate Model (WACCM) chemistry-climate model. The chemical pathway alters the internal partitioning of the NOy family during winter months in both hemispheres, and ultimately triggers statistically significant changes in the climatological distributions of constituents including: i) a cold season production and loss of HNO3 and N2O5, respectively, and ii) a cold season decrease and increase in NOx/NOy-ratio and O3, respectively, in the polar regions of both hemispheres. We see an improved seasonal evolution of modeled HNO3 compared to satellite observations from Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS), albeit not enough HNO3 is produced at high altitudes. Through O3changes, both temperature and dynamics are affected, allowing for complex chemical-dynamical feedbacks beyond the cold season when the pathway is active. Hence, we also find a NOxpolar increase in spring-to-summer in the southern hemisphere, and in spring in the northern hemisphere. The springtime NOxincrease arises from anomalously strong poleward transport associated with a weaker polar vortex. We argue that the weakening of zonal-mean polar winds down to the lower stratosphere, which is statistically significant at the 0.90 level in spring months in the southern hemisphere, is caused by strengthened planetary waves induced by the middle and sub-polar latitude zonal asymmetries in O3and short-wave heating.