SHIMMER was originally launched as the primary payload of STPSat-1 on March 8, 2007, with the objective to demonstrate the novel optical technique of Spatial Heterodyne Spectroscopy and to obtain global measurements of the hydroxyl (OH) radical in the Earth's mesosphere (50-90 km altitude). After the successful completion of its nominal 1-year mission, STPSat-1 operations were transitioned to NRL, which has been operating the spacecraft since June 1, 2008 using a novel, low cost operations approach.
SHIMMER has now measured the PMC diurnal variation for the two northern seasons of 2007 and 2008, and surprisingly, the variation is quite different. Even though a semidiurnal signature, that is two peaks per day -- one in early morning and one in the late afternoon -- was observed in 2007; in 2008, the variation was diurnal or one peak per day. This result has important implications for the inference of long-term trends from historical, space-based PMC observations because NASA and NOAA satellites that have observed PMCs over the last 25 years have all been launched into sun-synchronous orbits with different, fixed local times. Until the diurnal variation of these clouds is better understood, the SHIMMER data show that it is premature to make firm conclusions about multi-decadal trends in PMCs.
Donna McKinney | EurekAlert!
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