Articles | Volume 9, issue 13
07 Jul 2009
 | 07 Jul 2009

Middle atmospheric water vapour and dynamics in the vicinity of the polar vortex during the Hygrosonde-2 campaign

S. Lossow, M. Khaplanov, J. Gumbel, J. Stegman, G. Witt, P. Dalin, S. Kirkwood, F. J. Schmidlin, K. H. Fricke, and U. Blum

Abstract. The Hygrosonde-2 campaign took place on 16 December 2001 at Esrange/Sweden (68° N, 21° E) with the aim to investigate the small scale distribution of water vapour in the middle atmosphere in the vicinity of the Arctic polar vortex. In situ balloon and rocket-borne measurements of water vapour were performed by means of OH fluorescence hygrometry. The combined measurements yielded a high resolution water vapour profile up to an altitude of 75 km. Using the characteristic of water vapour being a dynamical tracer it was possible to directly relate the water vapour data to the location of the polar vortex edge, which separates air masses of different character inside and outside the polar vortex. The measurements probed extra-vortex air in the altitude range between 45 km and 60 km and vortex air elsewhere. Transitions between vortex and extra-vortex usually coincided with wind shears caused by gravity waves which advect air masses with different water vapour volume mixing ratios.

From the combination of the results from the Hygrosonde-2 campaign and the first flight of the optical hygrometer in 1994 (Hygrosonde-1) a clear picture of the characteristic water vapour distribution inside and outside the polar vortex can be drawn. Systematic differences in the water vapour concentration between the inside and outside of the polar vortex can be observed all the way up into the mesosphere. It is also evident that in situ measurements with high spatial resolution are needed to fully account for the small-scale exchange processes in the polar winter middle atmosphere.

Final-revised paper