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Halley Cometary impacts on the mesospheric metal layers and stratospheric ozone depletion

Advisor’s Name



NCAS Scientist

Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry


School of Chemistry, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT







Research Interests and Current Projects

Cosmic dust, metal layer, stratospheric ozone, atmosphere chemistry and physics, climate change

Current Projects:

1)      NCAS (UK National Centre Atmospheric Science) Climate (2011-

2)      NOx/HOx production & impacts on stratospheric O3 (NOHO): (2013-2016)

3)      Cosmic Dust in the Terrestrial Atmosphere (CODITA): (2012-2017)

4)      Atmospheric impact of close cometary encounter: (2015-2018)

Title of the URP

Halley Cometary impacts on the mesospheric metal layers and stratospheric ozone depletion

URP Host

x  Advisor’s Institution          USTC

URP Financial Support

x  No       Living Cost       Traveling Cost    

  Living and Traveling Cost

  Others (please specify):

URP Start Time

18 July 2016



2 September 2016

Brief Description of the URP

Cosmic dust particles from the solar system undergo significant meteoric ablation when they enter the atmosphere (Plane, 2012).To estimate the interplanetary dust particles (IDPs) into the atmosphere and its impact on climate, we need to have a better understanding a quite range of questions, i.e., the source of IDPs in the inner solar system and the process of meteoric ablation, the layers of metal atoms and ions which result from ablation, the formation of meteoric smoke particles and their role as ice nuclei in the mesosphere, the impact of meteoric smoke on ozone chemistry in the stratosphere, and the deposition of smoke to the earth’s surface. Dr Wuhu Feng at NCAS works closely with Professor John Plane at School of Chemistry, Professor Martyn Chipperfield at School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, UK, Dr Daniel Marsh at US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Dr Diego Janches at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) as well as other scientists in the USA and Germany to study the meteor astronomy, chemistry and transport processes that control the different mesospheric metal layers. Since 2013, we have successfully developed the first global atmospheric model of meteoric metals (Marsh et al., 2013, Feng et al., 2013, 2015; Plane et al., 2014, 2015; Langowski et al. 2015) based on the NCAR Community Earth System Model (CESM). Following this, we are able to build a self-consistent model to form meteoric smoke particles from metallic vapours produced during ablation.

These modelling tools are now being applied to study the effect of a close cometary flyby on the mesospheric metal layers and stratosphere ozone. In fact, a prolonged period of global cooling occurred in the 530s, when 6th Century Chinese scholars recorded unusually dark skies and extensive crop failures, shortly after an unusually close fly-by of Comet 1P/Halley. In October 2014, Comet 2013 A1 (Siding Spring) injected a huge quantity of dust particles (a few thousand tons in 1-2 hour) into the Martian atmosphere.

For this project, the student will learn the atmospheric physics and chemistry in the mesosphere and stratosphere and be trained to analyze the model output (large data sets). The student will also investigate the impact of Halley’s comet on the mesospheric metal layers (70-120 km) and stratosphere ozone (15-45 km).



Feng, W., D. R. Marsh, M. P. Chipperfield, D. Janches, J. Hoffner, F. Yi, and J. M. C. Plane (2013), A global atmospheric model of meteoric iron, J. Geophys. Res., 118, 9456--9474, doi:10.1002/jgrd.50708, 2013.

Feng, W., J. Hoffner, D. R. Marsh, M. P. Chipperfield, E. C. M. Dawkins, T. P. Viehl and J. M. C. Plane (2015), Diurnal variation of the potassium layer in the upper atmosphere, Geophys. Res. Lett., 42, 3619--3626, doi:10.1002/2015GL063718, 2015.

Langowski, M. P., C. von Savigny, J.P. Burrows, W. Feng, J.M.C. Plane, D.R. Marsh, D. Janches, M. Sinnhuber, A.C. Aikin and P. Liebing.: Global investigation of the Mg atom and ion layers using SCIAMACHY/Envisat observations between 70 and 150 km altitude and WACCM-Mg model results (2015), Atmos. Chem. Phys., 15, 273-295, doi:10.5194/acp-15-273-2015, 2015. 

Marsh D.R., D. Janches, W. Feng, and J. M. C. Plane (2013), A global model of meteoric sodium (2013), J. Geophys. Res., doi:10.1002/jgrd.50870, 118, 11442--11,452, 2013. 

Plane, J. M. C.: Cosmic dust in the earth's atmosphere (2012), Chemical Society Reviews, 41, 6507-6518, 2012.

Plane, J.M.C., W. Feng, E. Dawkins, M.P.C. Chipperfield, J. Hoffner, D. Janches, D.R. Marsh (2014), Resolving the strange behavior of extra-terrestrial potassium in the upper atmosphere, Geophys. Res. Lett., DOI: 10.1002/2014GL060334, 2014.

Plane, J.M.C., Wuhu Feng and Erin Dawkins (2015), The Mesosphere and Metals: Chemistry and Changes, Chem. Rev., DOI: 10.1021/cr500501m, 2015.

Requirements for Students

and Prerequisite Courses

Good communications in EnglishGood computing skills

Fortran or IDLStatisticsAtmospheric Sciences