Evaluation of Space Traffic Effects in SBUV Polar Mesospheric Cloud Data
Water-rich rocket exhaust plumes, in particular those emitted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Space Shuttle, have been suggested to make a significant contribution to long-term trends in polar mesospheric cloud (PMC) ice water content. We investigate this claim using the combined Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet (SBUV) PMC data record from eight separate instruments, which includes 60 Shuttle launches during PMC seasons between 1985 and 2011. No statistically significant postlaunch signal in PMC total ice is observed based on superposed epoch analysis of the SBUV record. Only a few launches show individual peaks in total ice anomaly above the seasonal background that exceed an empirical threshold, and the maximum cumulative signature from these infrequent cases is typically less than 5\% of the season total in ice mass. Other non-Shuttle launches show circumstantial evidence of possible PMC effects, although supporting evidence for plume transport is not available. We conclude that space traffic effects have been a negligible component of long-term PMC behavior.
|Year of Publication
Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
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