The impact of solar radiation on polar mesospheric ice particle formation
Mean temperatures in the polar summer mesopause can drop to 130 K. The low temperatures in combination with water vapor mixing ratios of a few parts per million give rise to the formation of ice particles. These ice particles may be observed as polar mesospheric clouds. Mesospheric ice cloud formation is believed to initiate heterogeneously on small aerosol particles (r<2 nm) composed of recondensed meteoric material, so-called meteoric smoke particles (MSPs). Recently, we investigated the ice activation and growth behavior of MSP analogues under realistic mesopause conditions. Based on these measurements we presented a new activation model which largely reduced the uncertainties in describing ice particle formation. However, this activation model neglected the possibility that MSPs heat up in the low-density mesopause due to absorption of solar and terrestrial irradiation. Radiative heating of the particles may severely reduce their ice formation ability. In this study we expose MSP analogues (Fe2O3 and FexSi1−xO3) to realistic mesopause temperatures and water vapor concentrations and investigate particle warming under the influence of variable intensities of visible light (405, 488, and 660 nm). We show that Mie theory calculations using refractive indices of bulk material from the literature combined with an equilibrium temperature model presented in this work predict the particle warming very well. Additionally, we confirm that the absorption efficiency increases with the iron content of the MSP material. We apply our findings to mesopause conditions and conclude that the impact of solar and terrestrial radiation on ice particle formation is significantly lower than previously assumed.