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Resolving Long-Standing E-Region Data/Model Discrepancies
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  • Emmaris Soto,
  • J. Evans,
  • Robert Meier,
  • Brendan McLaughlin
Emmaris Soto
Computational Physics (United States)

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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J. Evans
Computational Physics, Inc.
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Robert Meier
George Mason University
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Brendan McLaughlin
Queens University Belfast
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Accurate photoionization rates are vital for the study and understanding of planetary ionospheres. Previous model calculations of terrestrial photoionization rates lack sufficient spectral resolution to account for highly structured photoionization cross sections as well as the solar spectral irradiance. We present new photoionization rate calculations from CPI’s Atmospheric Ultraviolet Radiance Integrated Code [AURIC; Strickland et al., 1999] using high-resolution (0.01 Å) solar spectra and high-resolution (0.01 Å) atomic oxygen (O) and molecular nitrogen (N2) photoionization cross sections. Theoretical photoionization cross sections of O are determined utilizing the R-matrix plus pseudo-states (RMPS) approximation whereas N2 cross sections are determined using the R-matrix approximation. We include 34 high-resolution partial O state photoionization cross sections and 3 high-resolution partial N2 state photoionization cross sections with supplemental Conway [1988] tabulations for molecular oxygen and the remaining N2 states. We find that photoionization rates computed at 0.01 Å resolution differ substantially from rates computed using low-resolution cross sections, especially in the lower thermosphere below 200 km. Specifically, we find that ionization production rate ratios exhibit variations in altitude of more than ±40% between the high- and low-resolution cases. Past low-resolution calculations at various low spectral resolutions do not sufficiently account for or preserve the highly structured auto-ionization lines in the photoionization cross sections [Meier et al., 2007]. These features, in combination with high-resolution solar spectra, allow photons to penetrate deeper into the Earth’s atmosphere producing larger total ionization rates. These higher ionization rates may finally resolve data-model discrepancies in altitude profiles of electron densities due to the use of low-resolution photoionization cross sections in current E-region models.