Vincent B. Wickwar

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This research is an analysis of absolute densities throughout the mesosphere (45 km to 90 km). Although much research has gone into the study of temperatures and their variations occurring in our atmosphere, little has been done to research the densities and their variations. Due to the remoteness of the middle atmosphere there is a high degree of difficulty in making observations in the mesosphere. There are currently three major types of ground-based instruments used to sense the mesosphere remotely. They are atmospheric radars, LIDARs and optical spectrometers. As far as measuring density in the mesosphere LIDAR is the most efficient. A Rayleigh-scatter LIDAR operated at the Atmospheric LIDAR Observatory (ALO; 41.7 ° N, 111.8 ° W), as part of CASS (Center for Atmosphere and Space Studies), on the campus of Utah State University (USU) has collected extensive data between 1993 and 2004. This LIDAR is used to measure relative densities (which can be used to derive temperatures) throughout the mesosphere. An analysis is made with the absolute densities from the atmosphere reanalysis model ERA-20C (the European Reanalysis 20th century model.) by using the model densities at 45 km to calibrate the LIDAR observations made at USU. Thereby, converting the relative densities measured by the USU LIDAR into measurements of absolute densities. These densities are used to examine the density structure of the mesosphere, how it varies with altitude and time, possible atmospheric anomalies, along with annual or semiannual atmospheric variations. Monthly averages are used to compare density variations related to altitude and season. By normalizing the relative densities from the Rayleigh LIDAR observations to the absolute densities from the reanalysis models, these differences can be observed and analyzed to better characterize the neutral atmosphere and learn how it varies during the year.

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