08 Sep 2023
 | 08 Sep 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Observations of Polar Mesospheric Summer Echoes Resembling Kilometer-Scale Varicose-Mode Flows

Jennifer Hartisch, Jorge L. Chau, Ralph Latteck, Toralf Renkwitz, and Marius Zecha

Abstract. The mesosphere and lower thermosphere (MLT) region represents a captivating yet challenging field of research. Remote sensing techniques, such as radar, have proven invaluable for investigating this domain. The Middle Atmosphere Alomar Radar System (MAARSY), located in Northern Norway (69° N, 16° E), uses Polar Mesospheric Summer Echoes (PMSE) as tracers to study MLT dynamics across multiple scales. We recently discovered a spatiotemporally highly localized event showing a varicose mode, which is characterized by extreme vertical velocities (|w| ≥ 3σ) of up to 60 m/s in the vertical drafts. Motivated by this finding, our objective is to identify and quantify similar extreme events or comparable varicose structures, i.e. defined by quasi-simultaneous up- and downdrafts that may have been previously overlooked or filtered. To achieve this, we conducted a thorough manual search through a MAARSY dataset, considering the PMSE months (i.e. May, June, July, August) spanning from 2015 to 2021. This search has revealed that these structures do indeed occur relatively frequently with an occurrence rate of up to 2.5 % per month. Over the seven-year period, we observed and recorded more than 700 varicose-mode events and documented their vertical extent, vertical velocity characteristics, duration as well as their occurrence. Remarkably, these events manifest throughout the entire PMSE season with pronounced occurrence rates in June and July, while the probability of their occurrence decreases towards the beginning and end of the PMSE seasons. Furthermore, their diurnal variability aligns with that of PMSE. On average, the observed events persisted for 20 minutes, while the varicose mode caused an average expansion of the PMSE layer by a factor of 1.5, with a vertical expansion averaging around 8 km. Notably, a careful examination of the vertical velocities associated with these events confirmed that approximately 17 % surpassed the 3σ threshold, highlighting their extreme nature.

Jennifer Hartisch et al.

Status: open (until 20 Oct 2023)

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  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1856', Anonymous Referee #1, 25 Sep 2023 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1856', Anonymous Referee #2, 03 Oct 2023 reply

Jennifer Hartisch et al.

Jennifer Hartisch et al.


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Short summary
Scientists are studying the mesosphere and lower thermosphere using radar in Northern Norway. They found peculiar events with strong upward and downward air movements, happening frequently (up to 2.5 % per month) from 2015 to 2021. Over 700 such events were noted, lasting around 20 minutes and expanding the studied layer. 17 % of these events had extreme vertical speeds, showing their unique nature.