Space Science Reviews

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 279–334

Noctilucent clouds

  • M. Gadsden

DOI: 10.1007/BF00196999

Cite this article as:
Gadsden, M. Space Sci Rev (1982) 33: 279. doi:10.1007/BF00196999


Noctilucent clouds appear during the summertime at high latitudes near the top of the mesosphere. In this review, the observational facts about them, obtained from ground level, by rocket sounding and from orbiting spacecraft, are reviewed. The data are not sufficiently clear and unambiguous to permit dogmatic assertion about the origin and nature of the clouds. They seem to be ice particles nucleated at very low pressures and temperatures by either meteoric smoke or by atmospheric ions. Wavepatterns in the clouds may well result from quite close relations between the troposphere and the mesosphere. The very existence of the clouds leads to difficulties in explaining why there is so much water vapour at this great height in the atmosphere. To try to predict the microscopic behaviour of the cloud particles leads one into assessment of the relative importance of radiometer effects, radiation balance, Brownian movement, electric polarization and the influence of Coulomb attraction on the growth of large clustered ions. Finally, a list is given of published sources of observational data.

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Co 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Gadsden
    • 1
  1. 1.Natural Philosophy DepartmentAberdeen UniversityAberdeenScotland