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Volume 18, issue 21 | Copyright

Special issue: Layered phenomena in the mesopause region (ACP/AMT inter-journal...

Atmos. Chem. Phys., 18, 15569-15580, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 30 Oct 2018

Research article | 30 Oct 2018

Simultaneous observations of NLCs and MSEs at midlatitudes: implications for formation and advection of ice particles

Michael Gerding1, Jochen Zöllner1,a, Marius Zecha1, Kathrin Baumgarten1, Josef Höffner1, Gunter Stober1, and Franz-Josef Lübken1 Michael Gerding et al.
  • 1Leibniz-Institute of Atmospheric Physics at Rostock University, Kühlungsborn, Germany
  • anow at: Planet AI GmbH, Rostock, Germany

Abstract. We combined ground-based lidar observations of noctilucent clouds (NLCs) with collocated, simultaneous radar observations of mesospheric summer echoes (MSEs) in order to compare ice cloud altitudes at a midlatitude site (Kühlungsborn, Germany, 54°N, 12°E). Lidar observations are limited to larger particles ( > 10nm), while radars are also sensitive to small particles ( < 10nm), but require sufficient ionization and turbulence at the ice cloud altitudes. The combined lidar and radar data set thus includes some information on the size distribution within the cloud and through this on the history of the cloud. The soundings for this study are carried out by the IAP Rayleigh–Mie–Raman (RMR) lidar and the OSWIN VHF radar. On average, there is no difference between the lower edges (zlowNLC and zlowMSE). The mean difference of the upper edges zupNLC and zupMSE is  ∼ 500m, which is much less than expected from observations at higher latitudes. In contrast to high latitudes, the MSEs above our location typically do not reach much higher than the NLCs. In addition to earlier studies from our site, this gives additional evidence for the supposition that clouds containing large enough particles to be observed by lidar are not formed locally but are advected from higher latitudes. During the advection process, the smaller particles in the upper part of the cloud either grow and sediment, or they sublimate. Both processes result in a thinning of the layer. High-altitude MSEs, usually indicating nucleation of ice particles, are rarely observed in conjunction with lidar observations of NLCs at Kühlungsborn.

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Short summary
We describe the first comparative study of noctilucent clouds (NLCs) and mesospheric summer echoes at midlatitudes. Therefore, this study compares fresh clouds (small particles) with fully evolved clouds in the mesosphere, hinting at their evolution. It is shown that, in contrast to higher latitudes, here only a thin layer of fresh particles exist above the NLCs. This gives evidence that NLCs are not formed locally but are typically advected. This needs to be acknowledged in trend studies.
We describe the first comparative study of noctilucent clouds (NLCs) and mesospheric summer...