26 Sep 2022
26 Sep 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Signatures of gravity wave-induced instabilities in balloon lidar soundings of polar mesospheric clouds

Natalie Kaifler1, Bernd Kaifler1, Markus Rapp1, and David C. Fritts2 Natalie Kaifler et al.
  • 1Institute of Atmospheric Physics, German Aerospace Center, Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany
  • 2GATS, Boulder, CO, USA

Abstract. The Balloon Lidar Experiment (BOLIDE) which was part of the PMC Turbo balloon mission has captured near-vertical profiles of polar mesospheric clouds (PMC) during a 6-day flight along the Arctic circle in July 2018. The high-resolution soundings (20 m vertical and 10 s temporal resolution) reveal highly structured layers with large gradients in volume backscatter coefficient. We systematically screen the BOLIDE dataset for small-scale variability by assessing these gradients at high resolution. We find longer tails of the probability density distributions of these gradients compared to a normal distribution, indicating intermittent behaviour. The high occurrence rate of large gradients is assessed in relation to the 15-min-averaged layer brightness and the spectral power of short-period (5–62 min) gravity waves based on PMC layer altitude variations. We find that variability on small scales occurs during weak, moderate and strong gravity wave activity. Layers with below-average brightness are less likely to show small-scale variability in conditions of strong gravity wave activity. We present and discuss signatures of this small-scale variability and possibly related dynamical processes, and identify potential cases for future case studies and modelling efforts.

Natalie Kaifler et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on acp-2022-572', Anonymous Referee #2, 13 Oct 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on acp-2022-572', Anonymous Referee #1, 17 Oct 2022

Natalie Kaifler et al.

Natalie Kaifler et al.


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Short summary
We used a lidar to measure polar mesospheric clouds from a balloon floating in the upper stratosphere. The thin-layered ice clouds at 83 km altitude are perturbed by waves. The high-resolution lidar soundings reveal small-scale structures induced by the breaking of those waves. We study these patterns and find that they occur very often. We show their morphology and discuss associated dynamical physical processes, which helps to interpret case studies as well as to guide modelling.