Tim Dunker
^{1}Department of Physics and Technology, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Postboks 6050 Langnes, Tromsø, Norway

^{a}now at: National laboratory, Justervesenet, Postboks 170, 2027 Kjeller, Norway

Received: 20 Apr 2017 – Discussion started: 15 Aug 2017

Revised: 04 Feb 2018 – Accepted: 01 Mar 2018 – Published: 14 May 2018

Abstract. I investigate the nightly mean emission height and width of the OH* (3–1) layer by comparing nightly mean temperatures measured by the ground-based spectrometer GRIPS 9 and the Na lidar at ALOMAR. The data set contains 42 coincident measurements taken between November 2010 and February 2014, when GRIPS 9 was in operation at the ALOMAR observatory (69.3° N, 16.0° E) in northern Norway. To closely resemble the mean temperature measured by GRIPS 9, I weight each nightly mean temperature profile measured by the lidar using Gaussian distributions with 40 different centre altitudes and 40 different full widths at half maximum. In principle, one can thus determine the altitude and width of an airglow layer by finding the minimum temperature difference between the two instruments. On most nights, several combinations of centre altitude and width yield a temperature difference of ±2 K. The generally assumed altitude of 87 km and width of 8 km is never an unambiguous, good solution for any of the measurements. Even for a fixed width of ∼ 8.4 km, one can sometimes find several centre altitudes that yield equally good temperature agreement. Weighted temperatures measured by lidar are not suitable to unambiguously determine the emission height and width of an airglow layer. However, when actual altitude and width data are lacking, a comparison with lidars can provide an estimate of how representative a measured rotational temperature is of an assumed altitude and width. I found the rotational temperature to represent the temperature at the commonly assumed altitude of 87.4 km and width of 8.4 km to within ±16 K, on average. This is not a measurement uncertainty.

**Citation:**
Dunker, T.: The airglow layer emission altitude cannot be determined unambiguously from temperature comparison with lidars, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 18, 6691-6697, https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-18-6691-2018, 2018.