What caused the exceptional mid-latitudinal Noctilucent Cloud event in July 2009?
Journal article, 2011
Noctilucent Clouds (NLCs) are rarely observed at mid-latitudes. In July 2009, strong NLCs were recorded from both Paris and Nebraska, located at latitudes 48 degrees N and 41 degrees N, respectively. The main focus of this work is on the atmospheric conditions that have led to NLCs at these latitudes. We investigate to what extent these clouds may be explained by local formation or by transport from higher latitudes. The dynamical situation is analyzed in terms of wind fields created from Aura/MLS temperature data and measured by radar. We discuss possible tidal effects on the transport and examine the general planetary wave activity during these days. The winds do not seem sufficient to transport NLC particles long southward distances. Hence a local formation is rather likely. In order to investigate the possibility of local NLC formation, the CARMA microphysical model has been applied with temperature data from MLS as input. The results from the large-scale datasets are compared to NLC observations by Odin and to local NLC, temperature and wind measurements by lidar and radar. The reason for the exceptional NLC formation is most likely a combination of local temperature variations by diurnal tides, advantageously located large-scale planetary waves, and general mesospheric temperature conditions that were 5-10 K colder than in previous years. The results also point to that NLCs are very unlikely to occur at latitudes below 50 degrees N during daytime. This conclusion can be made from a tidal temperature mode with cold temperatures during nighttime and temperatures above the limit for NLC occurrence during daytime. The best time for observing mid-latitude NLCs is during the early morning hours.