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Geophysical Research Letters






Advancing Earth and Space Science

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Noctilucent clouds are ice clouds that appear high in the atmosphere, about 80 km above the summer pole. By observing them we have learned a lot about the remote and inaccessible region where they form. Recently, a satellite borne instrument discovered nearly circular ice-free regions within the clouds, denoted as “ice voids.” The origin of these voids is a mystery—we do not know what causes the clouds to disappear in large circular areas. So far these voids have only been observed from satellites, which only can take pictures of the clouds when they pass above once every 1.5 hr—longer than most ice voids exist. This means that until now we completely lack observations of the development and disappearance of the voids. Here we therefore present the first full temporal development of a void, as observed by our ground-based camera taking images every 30 s. Surprisingly, the void did not drift with the wind as cloud features around it, but it remained notably stationary for approximately 1 hr. These observations give important clues to help us solve the mystery of the origin of these voids—they suggest a steady local heating of the atmosphere as the cause.

Available for download on Thursday, February 28, 2019

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