Energy transport in the thermosphere during the solar storms of April 2002

M.G. Mlynczak, Javier Martin-Torres, Geoff Crowley, David P. Kratz, Bernd Funke, Gang Lu, Manuel López-Puertas, James M. Russell III, Janet Kozyra, Chris Mertens, Ramesh Sharma, Larry Gordley, Richard Picard, Jeremy Winick, Larry Paxton

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103 Citations (Scopus)


The dramatic solar storm events of April 2002 deposited a large amount of energy into the Earth's upper atmosphere, substantially altering the thermal structure, the chemical composition, the dynamics, and the radiative environment. We examine the flow of energy within the thermosphere during this storm period from the perspective of infrared radiation transport and heat conduction. Observations from the SABER instrument on the TIMED satellite are coupled with computations based on the ASPEN thermospheric general circulation model to assess the energy flow. The dominant radiative response is associated with dramatically enhanced infrared emission from nitric oxide at 5.3 μm from which a total of ∼7.7 × 1023 ergs of energy are radiated during the storm. Energy loss rates due to NO emission exceed 2200 Kelvin per day. In contrast, energy loss from carbon dioxide emission at 15 μm is only ∼2.3% that of nitric oxide. Atomic oxygen emission at 63 μm is essentially constant during the storm. Energy loss from molecular heat conduction may be as large as 3.8% of the NO emission. These results confirm the “natural thermostat” effect of nitric oxide emission as the primary mechanism by which storm energy is lost from the thermosphere below 210 km.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research - Space Physics
Issue numberA12
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • Atmospheric Composition and Structure: Airglow and aurora
  • Atmospheric Composition and Structure: Thermosphere: composition and chemistry
  • Atmospheric Composition and Structure: Thermosphere: energy deposition (3369)
  • Atmospheric Processes: Radiative processes
  • Solar Physics
  • Astrophysics
  • and Astronomy: Coronal mass ejections (2101)
  • thermosphere
  • energy balance
  • thermostat effect
  • nitric oxide
  • solar variability
  • atmospheric radiation


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