1ICG I, Research Centre Jülich, Germany
2EOS/SRC, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, UK
3Atmospheric Science Competency, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia, USA
4Computational Physics, Incorporated, Springfield, Virginia, USA
5Alfred Wegener Institute, Potsdam, Germany
6Leibniz-Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Kühlungsborn, Germany
Abstract. The Michelson Interferometer for Passive Atmospheric Sounding (MIPAS) on ENVISAT has made extensive measurements of polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs) in the northern hemisphere winter 2002/2003. A PSC detection method, based on a ratio of radiances (the cloud index), has been implemented for MIPAS and is validated in this study with respect to ground based lidar and space borne occultation measurements. A very good correspondence in PSC sighting and cloud altitude between MIPAS detections and those of other instruments is found for cloud index values less than four. Comparisons with data from the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment (SAGE) III are used to show further that the sensitivity of the MIPAS detection method for this threshold value of cloud index is approximately equivalent to an extinction limit of 10−3 km−1 at 1022 nm, a wavelength used by solar occultation experiments. The MIPAS cloud index data are subsequently used to examine, for the first time with any technique, the evolution of PSCs throughout the Arctic polar vortex up to a latitude of 90° north on a near-daily basis. We find that the winter of 2002/2003 is characterised by three phases of very different PSC activity: First, an unusual, extremely cold phase in the first three weeks of December resulted in high PSC occurrence rates. This was followed by a second phase of only moderate PSC activity from 5–13 January, separated from the first phase by a minor warming event. Finally there was a third phase from February to end of March where only sporadic and mostly weak PSC events took place. The composition of PSCs during the winter period has also been examined, exploiting particularly an infra-red spectral signature which is probably characteristic of NAT. The MIPAS observations show the presence of these particles on a number of occasions in December but very rarely in January. The PSC type differentiation from MIPAS indicates that future comparisons of PSC observations with microphysical and denitrification models might be revealing about aspects of solid particle existence and location.