A Generalized Method for Calculating Atmospheric Ionization by Energetic Electron Precipitation
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionJournal of Geophysical Research (JGR): Space Physics. 2020, 125(11), e2020JA028482 https://doi.org/10.1029/2020JA028482
Accurate specification of ionization production by energetic electron precipitation is critical for atmospheric chemistry models to assess the resultant atmospheric effects. Recent model-observation comparison studies have increasingly highlighted the importance of considering precipitation fluxes in the full range of electron energy and pitch angle. However, previous parameterization methods were mostly proposed for isotropically precipitation electrons with energies up to 1 MeV, and the pitch angle dependence has not yet been parameterized. In this paper, we first characterize and tabulate the atmospheric ionization response to monoenergetic electrons with different pitch angles and energies between ∼3 keV and ∼33 MeV. A generalized method that fully accounts for the dependence of ionization production on background atmospheric conditions, electron energy, and pitch angle has been developed based on the parameterization method of Fang et al. (2010, https://doi.org/10.1029/2010GL045406). Moreover, we validate this method using 100 random atmospheric profiles and precipitation fluxes with monoenergetic and exponential energy distributions, and isotropic and sine pitch angle distributions. In a suite of 6,100 validation tests, the error in peak ionization altitude is found to be within 1 km in 91% of all the tests with a mean error of 2.7% in peak ionization rate and 1.9% in total ionization. This method therefore provides a reliable means to convert space-measured precipitation energy and pitch angle distributions into ionization inputs for atmospheric chemistry models.