TERRAPUB Earth, Planets and Space

Earth Planets Space, Vol. 51 (Nos. 7, 8), pp. 815-824, 1999

Observations in the polar middle atmosphere by rocket-borne Rayleigh lidar: First results

Ulf-Peter Hoppe1, Torkild Eriksen1, Eivind V. Thrane1, Tom A. Blix1, Jens Fiedler2, and Franz-Josef Lübken3

1Norwegian Defence Research Establishment, Norway
2Leibniz-Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Germany
3Physikalisches Institut der Universität Bonn, Germany

(Received August 17, 1998; Revised May 24, 1999; Accepted May 24, 1999)

Abstract: We present a new rocket instrument which measures total atmospheric density with great precision and resolution by Rayleigh scattering of infrared light. Comparison with a ground-based lidar shows: (a) both instruments measure the same physical parameters, even though they have different integration times and volumes. (b) The observed density structures change little over the course of an hour and the horizontal distance of 14 km. The rocket instrument has a basic vertical resolution of approximately 8 m and a number density precision of 4.2cdot 1019m-3. Above 56 km we integrate over an increasing vertical range, reaching 80 m at 70 km. The measured number density profile shows remarkable alternations between very stable layering and metastable layering (adiabatic lapse rate) in the atmosphere between 52 km and 71 km. Comparison with the hodograph of the horizontal wind profile measured by a falling sphere 29 minutes later shows that the metastable height regions coincide with height regions where the hodograph deviates from an ideal spiral. The observation is tentatively interpreted as a gravity wave that is saturating (or encountering a critical level) in these height regions. The comparison of the fine-scale neutral number density observations with measurements of ion density by electrostatic skin probes on board the same vehicle shows a number of ion density enhancements in the stably-layered height regions. With one exception out of six cases, these enhancements occur where the vertical gradient of the meridional wind would collect positive ions as in sporadic E layers. This may be the first observation of such ion density enhancements in the height region 55 to 70 km.


Corresponding author E-mail: Ulf-Peter.Hoppe@ffi.no


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