Articles | Volume 26, issue 5
28 May 2008
 | 28 May 2008

Noctilucent clouds observed from the UK and Denmark – trends and variations over 43 years

S. Kirkwood, P. Dalin, and A. Réchou

Abstract. The combined UK/Denmark record of noctilucent cloud (NLC) observations over the period 1964–2006 is analysed. This data set is based on visual observations by professional and voluntary observers, with around 40 observers each year contributing reports. Evidence is found for a significantly longer NLC season, a greater frequency of bright NLC, and a decreased sensitivity to 5-day planetary waves, from 1973–1982, compared to the rest of the time interval. This coincides with a period when the length of the summer season in the stratosphere was also longer (defined by zonal winds at 60° N, 30 hPa). At NLC heights, lower mean temperatures, and/or higher water vapour and/or smaller planetary wave amplitudes could explain these results. The time series of number of NLC nights each year shows a quasi-decadal variation with good anti-correlation with the 10.7 cm solar flux, with a lag of 13–17 months. Using multi-parameter linear fitting, it is found that the solar-cycle and the length of summer in the stratosphere together can explain ~40% of the year-to-year variation in NLC numbers. However, no statistically confidant long-term trend in moderate or bright NLC is found. For NLC displays of moderate or greater intensity, the multi-parameter fit gives a trend of ~0.08 nights (0.35%) per year with a statistical probability of 28% that it is zero, or as high as 0.16 nights (0.7%) per year. There is a significant increasing trend in the number of reports of faint or very faint NLC which is inconsistent with other observations and may be due changes in observing practices.