Polar mesospheric cloud structures observed from the cloud imaging and particle size experiment on the Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere spacecraft: Atmospheric gravity waves as drivers for longitudinal variability in polar mesospheric cloud occurrence



[1] The cloud imaging and particle size (CIPS) experiment is one of three instruments on board the Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) spacecraft that was launched into a 600 km Sun-synchronous orbit on 25 April 2007. CIPS images have shown distinct wave patterns and structures in polar mesospheric clouds (PMCs), around the summertime mesopause region, which are qualitatively similar to structures seen in noctilucent clouds (NLCs) from ground-based photographs. The structures in PMC are generally considered to be manifestations of upward propagating atmospheric gravity waves (AGWs). Variability of AGW effects on PMC reported at several lidar sites has led to the notion of longitudinal differences in this relationship. This study compares the longitudinal variability in the CIPS-observed wave occurrence frequency with CIPS-measured PMC occurrence frequency and albedo along with mesospheric temperatures measured by the sounding of the atmosphere using broadband emission radiometry instrument on board the Thermosphere Ionosphere Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics spacecraft. Our results for the latitude ranges between 70° and 80° show a distinct anticorrelation of wave structures with cloud occurrence frequency and correlations with temperature perturbations for at least two of the four seasons analyzed, supporting the idea of gravity wave-induced cloud sublimation. The locations of the observed wave events show regions of high wave activity in both hemispheres. In the Northern Hemisphere, while the longitudinal variability in observed wave structures show changes from the 2007–2008 seasons, there exist regions of both low and high wave activities common to the two seasons. These persistent features may explain some of the observed differences in PMC activity reported by ground-based lidar instruments distributed at different longitudes. The statistical distribution of horizontal scales increases with wavelength up to at least 250 km. We also discuss the possibility of atmospheric tides, especially the nonmigrating semidiurnal tide, aliasing our observations and affecting the results presented in this analysis.