Collaborative Studies of the Antarctic Mesosphere and Lower Thermosphere
The mesosphere and lower thermosphere (MLT), at an altitude between 80 and 120 km above the Earth's surface, is a highly dynamic region that couples the lower terrestrial atmosphere (troposphere and stratosphere) with the upper atmosphere near-Earth space environment (thermosphere and ionosphere). Of particular importance in this region are both the upward propagating thermally forced atmospheric tides and global scale planetary waves. Both of these phenomena transport heat and momentum from the lower atmosphere into the upper atmosphere. Studies in recent years have indicated that the Arctic and Antarctic MLT possess a rich spectrum waves and may be more sensitive to global change than the lower atmosphere. The primary goal of this research is to observe, quantify, model, and further understand the spatial-temporal structure and variability of the MLT circulation above Antarctica and its commonalities with the Arctic. A secondary goal is to quantify and understand the deposition of mass into the upper atmosphere through the ablation of meteors and the resulting effect on local and regional aeronomic processes. This includes the effect of meteor flux, temperature and dynamics on the seasonal distribution of sodium over the South Pole. Meteor radar was installed at the South Pole Amundsen-Scott station and has been running continuously since January 2002. A new sodium nightglow imager will be installed at the South Pole to infer the sodium abundance in the MLT. Observations from this instrument will be combined with the South Pole Fabry-Perot interferometer temperature measurements and the meteor radar wind and meteor flux measurements to improve our understanding of the sodium chemistry and dynamics. These observations will be interpreted using sophisticated numerical models and interpreted in conjunction with Arctic measurements along with current linear and nonlinear atmospheric models to advance the current understanding of processes important to the MLT region. This research also contributes to the training and education of the graduate and undergraduate students, a postdoc and early career tenure track faculty.
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