The paper reviews our current knowledge regarding polar mesosphere summer
echoes, (PMSE) the understanding of which had bothered the scientific
community for more than 20 years. In our review paper, we show that there
is now compelling evidence that these radar echoes are direct evidence of
ice clouds in the upper mesosphere (80-90km), where many colleagues believe
that climate change signals should be much larger than in the troposphere.
Since ice cloud microphysics should very strongly react to changes in
temperature or water vapor, one could hence regard observations of these
ice clouds as a magnifying glass of the thermal structure of this part of
Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or
synthesis of knowledge? Would you summarize the significance of your
paper in layman's terms?
"The forthcoming years will need to
show whether this altitude range of our
atmosphere is indeed ideal for detecting
It describes a synthesis of knowledge. We have shown that ice clouds which
occur some 70km above ordinary clouds in the upper mesosphere can be
routinely observed by comparably simple ground-based radar systems. This
gives us a direct observing window to this altitude range, which is
suspected to be quite sensitive to climate change.
How did you become involved in this research and
were any particular problems encountered along the way?
I started my work in this field as an undergraduate research assistant
working on my M.Sc. thesis in physics. Both the scientific objectives and
experimental techniques—sounding rockets, radars, lidars, and
satellites—were so fascinating to me that I decided to stay within
this particular field of research. During my career, I've received
considerable support from my advisors and mentors and can gladly say that
there were no particular problems encountered along the way.
Where do you see your research leading in the
Having established a solid physical basis which enables us to interpret
observations of PMSE quantitatively, we can now use them as climate
monitors or, more generally, as suitable tools to study physical processes
such as that of waves and turbulence in the upper mesosphere.
Do you foresee any social or political implications
for your research?
The forthcoming years will need to show whether this altitude range of our
atmosphere is indeed an ideal predictor for detecting climate change.
Prof. Dr. Markus Rapp
Head of Department
Dept. Radars and Sounding Rockets
Leibniz-Institute of Atmospheric Physics
University of Rostock
Kuehlungsborn, Germany Web