Department of Physics

Marsden Fund Project 2010

During magnetic storms in space, hot electrons rain down into the polar atmosphere ("energetic electron precipitation"). This electron precipitation has recently been linked to large variations in surface air temperature patterns at the poles. Evidence suggests the air temperature variations are due to ozone-destroying chemicals produced by the electron precipitation. These chemicals can survive for months during the polar winters. However, energetic electron precipitation has not been well measured, nor is it known how the atmospheric changes it produces are transported from altitudes of ~60-90 km down to the polar surface.


To address the knowledge gaps, first, we will combine satellite observations with ground-based radio electron precipitation data, to determine actual electron precipitation variances over a number of years.  Incorporation of this data into atmospheric models will improve our understanding of the polar surface air temperature variations.


From here, combining the enhanced modelling with new satellite data, we will have a more accurate view of how different heights of the polar atmosphere are coupled through transport.


This approach will bring us closer to determining the importance of the impact of electron precipitation on the polar atmosphere, particularly during the long dark winters.


Our project includes Dr. Craig Rodger (PI), and Assoc. Prof. Neil Thomson from the University of Otago, Dr. Adrian McDonald from the University of Canterbury, and Dr. Mark Clilverd of the British Antarctic Survey.