Articles | Volume 28, issue 6
23 Jun 2010
 | 23 Jun 2010

Quantitative relation between PMSE and ice mass density

S. Kirkwood, M. Hervig, E. Belova, and A. Osepian

Abstract. Radar reflectivities associated with Polar Mesosphere Summer Echoes (PMSE) are compared with measurements of ice mass density in the mesopause region. The 54.5 MHz radar Moveable Atmospheric Radar for Antarctica (MARA), located at the Wasa/Aboa station in Antarctica (73° S, 13° W) provided PMSE measurements in December 2007 and January 2008. Ice mass density was measured by the Solar Occultation for Ice Experiment (SOFIE). The radar operated continuously during this period but only measurements close to local midnight are used for comparison, to coincide with the local time of the measurements of ice mass density. The radar location is at high geographic latitude but low geomagnetic latitude (61°) and the measurements were made during a period of very low solar activity. As a result, background electron densities can be modelled based on solar illumination alone. We find a close correlation between the time and height variations of radar reflectivity and ice mass density, at all PMSE heights, from 80 km up to 95 km. A quantitative expression relating radar reflectivities to ice mass density is found, including an empirical dependence on background electron density. Using this relation, we can use PMSE reflectivities as a proxy for ice mass density, and estimate the daily variation of ice mass density from the daily variation of PMSE reflectivities. According to this proxy, ice mass density is maximum around 05:00–07:00 LT, with lower values around local noon, in the afternoon and in the evening. This is consistent with the small number of previously published measurements and model predictions of the daily variation of noctilucent (mesospheric) clouds and in contrast to the daily variation of PMSE, which has a broad daytime maximum, extending from 05:00 LT to 15:00 LT, and an evening-midnight minimum.