Waldrop and Qin awarded NSF grant to model hydrogen atoms in atmosphere
The research team of CSL Assistant Professor Lara Waldrop, Research Scientist Jianqi Qin, and Richard Hodges from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder were awarded a grant by the NSF for their proposal on modeling hydrogen atoms in the terrestrial atmosphere. Waldrop is a faculty member in Illinois' Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Atomic hydrogen dominates the exosphere so knowledge of hydrogen is critical for mesopheric and lower thermospheric heating as well as plasmaspheric and magnetospheric charging following geomagnetic storms. Since hydrogen is the lightest neutral species in the atmosphere, it requires the lowest energy to escape from the Earth's gravitational pull and into interplanetary space. Thus, permanent loss of hydrogen has a significant impact on long-term atmospheric evolution.
Through their research, Waldrop, Qin, and Hodges proposed to refine radiative transfer models to reflect non-collisional hydrogen physics and to "identify the mechanisms that control the distribution and dynamical transport of hydrogen atoms in the terrestrial thermosphere and exosphere" according to their NSF abstract.
With the NSF grant, Waldrop and Qin will be building off research that they had previously conducted together regarding the discovery of non-thermal hydrogen atoms in the thermosphere which was published in Nature. The discovery of such hydrogen atoms is the key to reconciling model predictions and observations of the distribution and dynamical transport of hydrogen atoms in the terrestrial atmosphere.