Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

An updated review of polar mesosphere summer echoes: Observation, theory, and their relationship to noctilucent clouds and subvisible aerosols


  • John Y. N. Cho,

  • Jürgen Röttger


Peculiar atmospheric radar echoes from the high-latitude summer mesosphere have spurred much research in recent years. The radar data (taken on frequency bands ranging from 2 to 1290 MHz) have been supplemented by measurements from an increasing arsenal of in situ (rocket borne) and remote sensing (satellites and lidars) instruments. Theories to explain these polar mesosphere summer echoes (PMSEs) have also proliferated. Although each theory is distinct and fundamentally different, they all share the feature of being dependent on the existence of electrically charged aerosols. It is therefore natural to assume that PMSEs are intimately linked to the other fascinating phenomenon of the cold summer mesopause, noctilucent clouds (NLCs), which are simply ice aerosols that are large enough to be seen by the naked eye. In this paper we critically examine both the data collected and the theories proposed, with a special focus on the relationship between PMSEs and NLCs.