Turbulence generated small-scale structures as PMWE formation mechanism: Results from a rocket campaign

Tristan Staszak*, Boris Strelnikov*, Ralph Latteck, Toralf Renkwitz, Martin Friedrich, Gerd Baumgarten, Franz Josef Lübken

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Simultaneous measurements of rocket-borne and ground-based instruments in a common volume were performed from Andøya, Norway (69° N, 16° E) in frame of the recent PMWE-project, devoted to clarify the formation mechanism behind polar mesosphere winter echoes (PMWE). This article focuses on measurements of April, 13th 2018. Despite low solar activity, we observe several radar echoes, giving the launch criterion. Combining precise in-situ ionization gauge and wave propagation measurements with ground-based radar measurements on 53.5 and 3.17 MHz, as well as lidar, we were able to measure key parameters of PMWE formation. Carefully analyzing the atmospheric background (i.e., temperature, viscosity, Brunt-Väisälä frequency, and scale heights of electron and neutral density), deriving turbulence parameters by means of radar and rocket, as well as estimating particle sizes of meteor smoke particles (MSP), we got a deep insight into the physical processes behind the PMWE phenomenon. Measurements clearly show that the coherent structures in refractive index variations (forming PMWE) are accompanied by neutral air turbulence, which is reflected in small-scale structures (down to some meters) of neutral and electron density. We analyze and discuss the temporal development of the radar echos by means of spectral width and wind measurements. We show that the behavior of the structures under investigation together with the atmospheric background is consistent with the interpretation, that PMWE were created by turbulence. Furthermore, it becomes clear that charged Meteor Smoke Particles (MSP) and background electron density can only enhance SNR, while turbulence is a prerequisite for their formation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105559
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Ionosphere D-region
  • Mesosphere-lower thermosphere (MLT)
  • Meteor smoke particles (MSP)
  • Polar mesosphere winter echos (PMWE)
  • Radar scattering
  • Sounding rocket
  • Turbulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Space and Planetary Science

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