2015-2016 Science Planning Summaries
United States Antarctic Program United States Antarctic Program Logo National Science Foundation Logo
2015-2016 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

LiDAR investigation of middle and upper atmosphere temperature, composition, chemistry, and dynamics at McMurdo, Antarctica

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Event Number:

Program Manager:
Dr. Vladimir Papitashvili

ASC POC/Implementer:
Judy Shiple / Richard Dean

Principal Investigator

Dr. Xinzhao Chu

University of Colorado Boulder
Boulder, Colorado

Project Web Site:
http://cires1.colorado.edu/science/groups/chu/projects/mcmurdo.html External Web Site


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station
Research Locations: Arrival Heights


This project continues the operation of the Fe Boltzmann LiDAR instrument installed in the Antarctica New Zealand (ANZ) lab at Arrival Heights. Primary research objectives are to acquire vertical profiles of atmospheric temperature (30–155 kilometers), Fe (iron) density (70–155 kilometers), and polar mesospheric cloud (PMC), to study the chemistry and dynamics of the polar atmosphere and to establish the baseline temperature, Fe, PMC, and gravity wave climatologies. New science discoveries based on the observations and measurements made to date (December 2010 to March 2017) include: (1) Neutral Fe layers and gravity waves well into the thermosphere, up to 180 km; (2) Elevated thermospheric temperatures between 110 and 150 kilometers, likely associated with aurora-enhanced Joule heating; (3) Explosive release of exceptionally large Fe densities between 85 and 95 kilometers during summer, likely from visible and sub-visible ice particles; (4) Significant solar effects on the Fe-layer bottom side during local sunrise and sunset; (5) Persistent, dominant, and large-amplitude inertial gravity waves all-year-round with cross-Antarctic-continent features; (6) Super-exponential growth of temperature tidal amplitude in the lower thermosphere above 110 kilometers; (7) Dramatic density variations (about 40 times) of Fe layers over a time scale of multiple days (7-20 days); 8) Planetary waves with periods of 1?5 days in the stratosphere, mesosphere and lower thermosphere; 9) Seasonal variations of gravity wave period, vertical wavelength, and potential energy density in the stratosphere; and 10) A thermosphere-ionosphere Fe/Fe+ (TIFe) model has been established for exploring the TIFe layers. In particular, the thermospheric observations of Fe layers and neutral temperatures up to 180 km have opened a new door to observing the neutral polar thermosphere with ground?based instruments.

Field Season Overview

The four-member team will collect LiDAR data in both summer and winter seasons; only one LiDAR scientist will winter over. The team will refurbish and maintain the LiDAR system to its optimum status.

Deploying Team Members

  • Ian Barry
  • Xinzhao Chu (PI)
  • Muzhou Lu
  • Xian Lu