The Thermospheric Column O/N2 Ratio

More than 2 decades ago, D. J. Strickland and colleagues proposed use of the O/N2 column number density ratio as a new geophysical quantity to interpret thermospheric processes recorded in far ultraviolet (FUV) images of the Earth. This concept has enabled multiple advances in understanding the global behavior of Earth s thermosphere. Nevertheless, confusion remains about the conceptual meaning of the column density ratio, and in the application of this integral quantity. This is so even though it is now a key thermospheric measurement made by current and planned far ultraviolet remote sensing missions in pursuit of new understanding of thermospheric processes and variability. The intent here is to review the historical context of the O/N2 column density ratio, clarify its physical meaning, and resolve misunderstandings evident in the literature. Simple examples elucidate its original derivation for extracting column O/N2 ratios from measurements of the OI 135.6 nm/N2 Lyman-Birge-Hopfield (LBH) emission based on an algorithmic synthesis of model precomputations. These are organized in the form of a table lookup of column density ratio as a function of observed radiance ratios. To accommodate generalized solar-geophysical and viewing conditions, the table required to specify the number of needed parameters becomes large. Proposed as an alternative is a simplified, first principles approach to obtaining the column density ratio from the emission ratio. This new methodology is now being applied successfully to FUV measurements made from onboard the Ionospheric CONnection satellite and will be applied retrospectively to the Global Ultraviolet Imager data.
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Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
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