On Atmospheric Loss of Oxygen Ions From Earth Through Magnetospheric Processes

Science. 2001 Mar 9;291(5510):1939-41. doi: 10.1126/science.1058913.


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 approximately 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 approximately 2% of the current atmospheric oxygen content.