Lidar studies of interannual, seasonal, and diurnal variations of polar mesospheric clouds at the South Pole

Xinzhao Chu, Chester S. Gardner, Raymond G. Roble

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Polar mesospheric clouds (PMC) were observed by an Fe Boltzmann temperature lidar at the South Pole in the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 austral summer seasons. We report the study of interannual, seasonal, and diurnal variations of PMC using more than 430 h of PMC data. The most significant differences between the two seasons are that in the 2000-2001 season, the PMC mean total backscatter coefficient is 82% larger and the mean centroid altitude is 0.83 km lower than PMC in the 1999-2000 season. Clear seasonal trends in PMC altitudes were observed at the South Pole where maximum altitudes occurred around 10-20 days after summer solstice. Seasonal variations of PMC backscatter coefficient and occurrence probability show maxima around 25-40 days after summer solstice. Strong diurnal and semidiurnal variations in PMC backscatter coefficient and centroid altitude were observed at the South Pole with both in-phase and out-of-phase correlations during different years. A significant hemispheric difference in PMC altitudes was found, that the mean PMC altitude of 85.03 km at the South Pole is about 2-3 km higher than PMC in the northern hemisphere. Through comparisons with the NCAR Thermosphere-Ionosphere-Mesosphere-Electrodynamics General Circulation Model (TIME-GCM), the hemispheric difference in PMC altitude is attributed to the hemispheric differences in the altitudes of supersaturation region and in the upwelling vertical wind, which are mainly caused by different solar forcing in two hemispheres that the solar flux in January is 6% greater than the solar flux in July due to the Earth's orbital eccentricity. Gravity wave forcing also contributes to these differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)PMR 15-1 - PMR 15-20
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 27 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Materials Chemistry
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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