Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences

First Advisor

Cora E. Randall

Second Advisor

V. Lynn Harvey

Third Advisor

Brian Toon

Abstract

Polar Mesospheric Clouds (PMCs) are thin water-ice clouds that form in the summer polar mesopause region. Since PMCs are sensitive to changes in the upper atmospheric temperature and water vapor abundance, they can be used to understand the dynamics of the upper mesosphere. It has also been suggested that they are important indicators of mesospheric climate change. PMCs have been successfully observed from the ground and with remote sensing instruments, for example the Cloud Imaging and Particle Size (CIPS) experiment on the Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) satellite, and the Solar Backscatter UltraViolet (SBUV) instruments. This thesis presents validation of CIPS observations by showing a comparison of PMC occurrence frequency, cloud and background albedo as observed by CIPS and SBUV. It is found that frequency and cloud albedo are in excellent agreement, with a small (10%) low bias in the CIPS v3.20 operational frequencies at more equatorward PMC latitudes on the descending node. The background albedo, however, shows a still unresolved bias that depends on hemisphere. Overall, the results show that CIPS PMC data are valid for scientific analysis. Furthermore, this thesis investigates and quantifies the relative importance of several coupling mechanisms that contribute to variability in the PMC season onset, such as the solar cycle and intra-hemispheric and inter-hemispheric coupling. It is found that the Southern Hemisphere (SH) PMC season onset is controlled primarily by the timing of the SH stratospheric wind reversal from its winter to summer state, with a smaller but still important contribution from the solar cycle. Inter-hemispheric coupling triggered by winter stratospheric wind variations plays a significant role in controlling the Northern Hemisphere (NH) PMC season onset dates, again with additional control by the solar cycle. These couplings explain most of the observed variability in the PMC onset dates as observed by SBUV over the past three decades. Preliminary results indicate that the Specified Dynamics version of the Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (SD-WACCM) will be a useful tool for more detailed studies of the mechanisms that control PMC variability. Future studies extending the presented CIPS validation and PMC variability investigation are suggested.

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