Nav: Home

NASA's AIM observes early noctilucent ice clouds over Antarctica

December 02, 2016

Data from NASA's Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere, or AIM, spacecraft shows the sky over Antarctica is glowing electric blue due to the start of noctilucent, or night-shining, cloud season in the Southern Hemisphere - and an early one at that. Noctilucent clouds are Earth's highest clouds, sandwiched between Earth and space 50 miles above the ground in a layer of the atmosphere called the mesosphere. Seeded by fine debris from disintegrating meteors, these clouds of ice crystals glow a bright, shocking blue when they reflect sunlight.

AIM studies noctilucent clouds in order to better understand the mesosphere, and its connections to other parts of the atmosphere, weather and climate. We observe them seasonally, during summer in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. This is when the mesosphere is most humid, with water vapor wafting up from lower altitudes. Additionally, this is also when the mesosphere is the coldest place on Earth - dropping as low as minus 210 degrees Fahrenheit - due to seasonal air flow patterns.

This year, AIM saw the start of noctilucent cloud season on Nov. 17, 2016 - tying with the earliest start yet in the AIM record of the Southern Hemisphere. Scientists say this corresponds to an earlier seasonal change at lower altitudes. Winter to summer changes in the Antarctic lower atmosphere sparked a complex series of responses throughout the atmosphere - one of which is an earlier noctilucent cloud season. In the Southern Hemisphere, AIM has observed seasons beginning anywhere from Nov. 17 to Dec. 16.

Since its 2007 launch, AIM data has shown us that changes in one region of the atmosphere can effect responses in another distinct, and sometimes distant, region. Scientists call these relationships atmospheric teleconnections. Now, due to natural precession, the spacecraft's orbit is evolving, allowing the measurement of atmospheric gravity waves that could be contributing to the teleconnections.
-end-
AIM is a NASA-funded mission managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and led by the AIM principal investigator from the Center for Atmospheric Sciences at Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia.

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Related Antarctica Articles:

Flat Antarctica
Temperatures in the Arctic are increasing twice as fast as in the rest of the globe, while the Antarctic is warming at a much slower rate.
Antarctica 'greening' due to climate change
Plant life on Antarctica is growing rapidly due to climate change, scientists have found.
Teleconnection between the tropical Pacific and Antarctica
The higher the seawater temperature in the tropical Pacific, the more likely ice breakup will occur in East Antarctica, according to Hokkaido University researchers.
Thought Antarctica's biodiversity was doing well? Think again
Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are not in better environmental shape than the rest of the world.
Antarctica's biodiversity is under threat
A unique international study has debunked the popular view that Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are in much better ecological shape than the rest of the world.
Water is streaming across Antarctica
In the first such continent-wide survey, scientists have found extensive drainages of meltwater flowing over parts of Antarctica's ice during the brief summer.
Unraveling the mystery of snowflakes, from the Alps to Antarctica
Using a special multi-angle camera, EPFL researchers have gained important insights into the structure of snowflakes.
Poor outlook for biodiversity in Antarctica: Study finds
An international study led by Monash scientists has debunked the popular view that Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are in a much better environmental shape than the rest of the world.
Poor outlook for biodiversity in Antarctica
The popular view that Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are in a much better environmental shape than the rest of the world has been brought into question in a study publishing on March 28 in the open access journal PLOS Biology, by an international team lead by Steven L.
New species discovered in Antarctica
A team of Japanese scientists has discovered a new species of polychaete, a type of marine annelid worm, 9-meters deep underwater near Japan's Syowa Station in Antarctica, providing a good opportunity to study how animals adapt to extreme environments.

Related Antarctica Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Bias And Perception
How does bias distort our thinking, our listening, our beliefs... and even our search results? How can we fight it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas about the unconscious biases that shape us. Guests include writer and broadcaster Yassmin Abdel-Magied, climatologist J. Marshall Shepherd, journalist Andreas Ekström, and experimental psychologist Tony Salvador.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#513 Dinosaur Tails
This week: dinosaurs! We're discussing dinosaur tails, bipedalism, paleontology public outreach, dinosaur MOOCs, and other neat dinosaur related things with Dr. Scott Persons from the University of Alberta, who is also the author of the book "Dinosaurs of the Alberta Badlands".