• PMSE;
  • aerosol particles;
  • neutral air turbulence;
  • mesopause region

[1] Triggered by recent experimental evidence showing that some parts of the Cho et al. [1992] theory describing electron diffusion in the vicinity of charged aerosol particles cannot be correct, we reconsider the process of electron diffusion under the conditions of the polar summer mesopause region. The key idea is that perturbations in the distribution of charged aerosol particles created for example by neutral air turbulence almost immediately lead to (anticorrelated) perturbations in the electron number density due to simple charge neutrality and zero net current arguments. We obtain analytical solutions of the coupled diffusion equations for electrons, charged aerosol particles, and positive ions subject to the initial condition of anticorrelated perturbations in the charged aerosol and electron distribution. The main signatures of these solutions are in line with available in situ evidence of small-scale plasma structures in the vicinity of polar mesosphere summer echoes (PMSE), i.e., electron perturbations are anticorrelated to both perturbations in the distributions of negatively charged aerosol particles and positive ions. The lifetime of these perturbations is proportional to the square of the aerosol particle radius such that the presence of particles with radii larger than ∼10 nm allows for the existence of electron number density perturbations up to several hours after the initial creation mechanism has stopped. These results are almost independent of the ratio between the aerosol charge number density and the number density of free electrons. These electron perturbations potentially give rise to a radar reflectivity comparable to values observed with 50 MHz VHF radars. Our model results can readily explain why in situ measurements of neutral air turbulence have repeatedly shown active turbulence only in the upper part of the PMSE layer whereas turbulence was basically absent in the lower part. Furthermore, our model concept qualitatively yields the correct altitude profile of the mean PMSE occurrence frequency based on the measured altitude profile of the turbulence occurrence frequency.