Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/angeo-2021-28
https://doi.org/10.5194/angeo-2021-28

  10 Jun 2021

10 Jun 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ANGEO.

What caused the frequent and widespread occurrences of noctilucent clouds at middle latitudes in 2020?

Peter Dalin1,2, Hidehiko Suzuki3, Nikolay Pertsev4, Vladimir Perminov4, Nikita Shevchuk5, Egor Tsimerinov6, Mark Zalcik7, Jay Brausch7, Tom McEwan8, Iain McEachran8, Martin Connors9, Ian Schofield9, Audrius Dubietis10, Kazimieras Černis11, Alexander Zadorozhny12, Andrey Solodovnik13, Daria Lifatova14, Jesper Grønne15, Ole Hansen15, Holger Andersen15, Dmitry Melnikov16, Alexander Manevich16, Nikolay Gusev17, and Vitaly Romejko17, Peter Dalin et al.
  • 1Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Box 812, SE-981 28 Kiruna, Sweden
  • 2Space Research Institute, RAS, Profsouznaya st. 84/32, Moscow 117997, Russia
  • 3Meiji University, Kawasaki, Kanagawa, Japan
  • 4A. M. Obukhov Institute of Atmospheric Physics, RAS, Pyzhevskiy per., 3, Moscow 119017, Russia
  • 5Saint Petersburg State University, Department of Atmospheric Physics, Ul`yanovskaya str., 1, Petergof, Saint Petersburg, 198504
  • 6Meteoweb.ru, Moscow, Russia
  • 71005-11230 St. Albert Trail, Edmonton, Alberta, T5M 3P2, Canada
  • 8NLC NET, 14 Kersland Road, Glengarnock, Ayrshire, KA14 3BA Scotland, UK
  • 9Athabasca University Geophysical Observatory, Athabasca, Alberta, Canada T9S 3A3
  • 10Laser Research Center, Vilnius University, Sauletekio Ave. 10, LT-10223, Vilnius, Lithuania
  • 11Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astronomy, Vilnius University, Sauletekio Ave. 3, LT-10257, Vilnius, Lithuania
  • 12Novosibirsk State University, Pirogova st. 2, Novosibirsk 630090, Russia
  • 13M. Kozybaev North Kazakhstan State University, Petropavlovsk, Kazakhstan
  • 14The Faculty of Physics, M. V. Lomonosov Moscow State University, 1-2, Leninskie Gory, Moscow, 119991
  • 15The Danish Association for NLC Research, Spurvevænget 14, Ejby, Lille Skensved, DK-2623, Denmark
  • 16Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, RAS, 9 Piip Boulevard, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, 683006, Russia
  • 17The Moscow Association for NLC Research, Kosygina st. 17, 119334 Moscow, Russia
  • deceased

Abstract. The 2020 summer season has revealed frequent occurrences of noctilucent clouds (NLCs) around the Northern hemisphere at middle latitudes (45–55° N), with the lowest latitude at which NLCs were seen being 34.1° N. In order to investigate a reason for this NLC extraordinary summer season, we have analyzed long-term Aura/MLS satellite data for all available summer periods from 2005 to 2020. Both Aura/MLS summer temperature and water vapor in the upper mesosphere and the mesopause region, between 74 and 89 km altitude, have been considered. We have found that there has been a moderate decrease in the upper mesosphere temperature between 2016 and 2020 and no dramatic changes have been observed in temperature in the summer of 2020 at the middle latitude mesopause. At the same time, water vapor concentration has significantly increased (by about 12–15 %) in the zonal mean H2O value in the 2020 summer compared to 2017, meaning that the summer mesopause at middle latitudes has become more wet. At the same time, no increase in water vapor has been detected at the high latitude high altitude mesopause. A combination of lower mesopause temperature and water vapor concentration maximum at middle latitudes is the main reason for frequent and widespread occurrences of NLCs seen around the globe at middle latitudes in the summer of 2020. The 24th solar cycle minimum cannot explain the H2O maximum in 2020 since the correlation between Lyman-α flux and the amount of water vapor is low. The increase in volcanic activity from 2013 to 2015 (and its recent maximum occurred in 2015) explains the increased amount of water vapor in the upper mesosphere for the past years and its maximum in 2020 due to volcanic water vapor being injected into the atmosphere and transported into the upper mesosphere. The 5-year delay between volcanic activity and water vapor maximum is well explained by a general meridional-vertical atmospheric circulation.

Peter Dalin et al.

Status: open (until 22 Jul 2021)

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Peter Dalin et al.

Peter Dalin et al.

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Short summary
The 2020 summer season has revealed frequent occurrences of noctilucent clouds around the Northern hemisphere at middle latitudes (45–55° N). We have found that there has been a moderate decrease in the upper mesosphere temperature between 2016 and 2020 and no dramatic changes have been observed in temperature in the summer of 2020 at the middle latitude mesopause. At the same time, water vapor concentration has significantly increased in the zonal mean H2O value in the 2020 summer.