Microphysical modelling of NLC and PMSE with CARMA

Scientific Aims

Noctilucent clouds (NLC) and polar mesosphere summer echoes (PMSE) are fascinating phenomena, which occur in the 80 – 90 km altitude range from May to August and at latitudes northward of approximately 50°N (equivalently, these clouds are also observed in the Southern hemisphere summer mesosphere south of ~ 50°S). Today, we know that these phenomena are evidence for ice clouds in this altitude range. Owing to the fact that the properties of these ice clouds do strongly depend on the conditions of the background atmosphere, it has been speculated that observations of these phenomena could be used as an indicator for global long term change in the mesosphere. This, however, certainly requires a detailed and robust physical understanding of all the processes which are relevant for the creation and development of these clouds as well as a robust understanding of their effect on their environment. In order to identify all relevant processes, IAP has developed diverse microphysical models which are also applied to the interpretation of the wealth of observations with radars, lidars, satellites, and sounding rockets.

In collaboration with colleagues from the University of Colorado in Boulder, USA, IAP has adopted a microphysical aerosol model to the special conditions of the polar summer mesopause. The used model is the well established Community Aerosol and Radiation Model for Atmospheres (CARMA) which was originally developed at the NASA Ames Research Center.

Methods and instruments



  • Prof. Gary E. Thomas, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado, Co, USA


  • The effect of gravity waves on NLC [more]
  • The physics of PMSE [more]