Report

On Atmospheric Loss of Oxygen Ions from Earth Through Magnetospheric Processes

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Science  09 Mar 2001:
Vol. 291, Issue 5510, pp. 1939-1941
DOI: 10.1126/science.1058913

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Abstract

In Earth's environment, the observed polar outflow rate for O+ ions, the main source of oxygen above gravitational escape energy, corresponds to the loss of ∼18% of the present-day atmospheric oxygen over 3 billion years. However, part of this apparent loss can actually be returned to the atmosphere. Examining loss rates of four escape routes with high-altitude spacecraft observations, we show that the total oxygen loss rate inferred from current knowledge is about one order of magnitude smaller than the polar O+outflow rate. This disagreement suggests that there may be a substantial return flux from the magnetosphere to the low-latitude ionosphere. Then the net oxygen loss over 3 billion years drops to ∼2% of the current atmospheric oxygen content.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: seki{at}space.eps.s.u-tokyo.ac.jp

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