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Midlatitude atmospheric OH response to the most recent 11-y solar cycle

Wang, S., K. Li, T. J. Pongetti, S. P. Sander, Y. L. Yung, M. Liang, N. Livesey, M. Santee, J. W. Harder, M. Snow, and F. P. Mills (2013), Midlatitude atmospheric OH response to the most recent 11-y solar cycle, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., 110, 2023-2028, doi:10.1073/pnas.1117790110.

The hydroxyl radical (OH) plays an important role in middle atmospheric photochemistry, particularly in ozone (O3) chemistry. Because it is mainly produced through photolysis and has a short chemical lifetime, OH is expected to show rapid responses to solar forcing [e.g., the 11-y solar cycle (SC)], resulting in variabilities in related middle atmospheric O3 chemistry. Here, we present an effort to investigate such OH variability using long-term observations (from space and the surface) and model simulations. Groundbased measurements and data from the Microwave Limb Sounder on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Aura satellite suggest an ∼7–10% decrease in OH column abundance from solar maximum to solar minimum that is highly correlated with changes in total solar irradiance, solar Mg-II index, and Lyman-α index during SC 23. However, model simulations using a commonly accepted solar UV variability parameterization give much smaller OH variability (∼3%). Although this discrepancy could result partially from the limitations in our current understanding of middle atmospheric chemistry, recently published solar spectral irradiance data from the Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment suggest a solar UV variability that is much larger than previously believed. With a solar forcing derived from the Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment data, modeled OH variability (∼6–7%) agrees much better with observations. Model simulations reveal the detailed chemical mechanisms, suggesting that such OH variability and the corresponding catalytic chemistry may dominate the O3 SC signal in the upper stratosphere. Continuing measurements through SC 24 are required to understand this OH variability and its impacts on O3 further.

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