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  • Author or Editor: Sarah Woods x
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R. Paul Lawson
,
Sarah Woods
, and
Hugh Morrison

Abstract

The rapid glaciation of tropical cumulus clouds has been an enigma and has been debated in the literature for over 60 years. Possible mechanisms responsible for the rapid freezing have been postulated, but until now direct evidence has been lacking. Recent high-speed photography of electrostatically suspended supercooled drops in the laboratory has shown that freezing events produce small secondary ice particles. Aircraft observations from the Ice in Clouds Experiment–Tropical (ICE-T), strongly suggest that the drop-freezing secondary ice production mechanism is operating in strong, tropical cumulus updraft cores. The result is the production of small ice particles colliding with large supercooled drops (hundreds of microns up to millimeters in diameter), producing a cascading process that results in rapid glaciation of water drops in the updraft. The process was analyzed from data collected using state-of-the-art cloud particle probes during 54 Learjet penetrations of strong cumulus updraft cores over open ocean in a temperature range from 5° to −20°C. Repeated Learjet penetrations of an updraft core containing 3–5 g m−3 supercooled liquid showed an order-of-magnitude decrease in liquid mass concentration 3 min later at an elevation 1–1.5 km higher in the cloud. The aircraft observations were simulated using a one-dimensional cloud model with explicit bin microphysics. The model was initialized with drop and ice particle size distributions observed prior to rapid glaciation. Simulations show that the model can explain the observed rapid glaciation by the drop-freezing secondary ice production process and subsequent riming, which results when large supercooled drops collide with ice particles.

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Paul Lawson
,
Colin Gurganus
,
Sarah Woods
, and
Roelof Bruintjes

Abstract

In situ data collected by three research aircraft in four geographical locations are analyzed to determine the relationship between cloud-base temperature, drop size distribution, and the development of supercooled water drops and ice in strong updraft cores of convective clouds. Data were collected in towering cumulus and feeder cells in the Caribbean, over the Gulf of Mexico, over land near the Gulf Coast, over land in the southeastern United States, and the high plains in Colorado and Wyoming. Convective clouds in the Caribbean, over the Gulf of Mexico and its coast, and over the southeastern United States all develop millimeter-diameter supercooled drops in updraft cores. Clouds over the high plains do not generate supercooled large drops, and rarely are drops >70 μm observed in updraft cores. Commensurate with the production of supercooled large drops, ice is generated and rapidly glaciates updraft cores through a hypothesized secondary ice process that is based on laboratory observations of large drops freezing and emitting tiny ice particles. Clouds over the high plains do not experience the secondary ice process and significant concentrations of supercooled liquid in the form of small drops are carried much higher (up to −35.5°C) in the updraft cores. An empirical relationship that estimates the maximum level to which supercooled liquid water will be transported, based on cloud-base drop size distribution and temperature, is developed. Implications have applications for modeling the transport of water vapor and particles into the upper troposphere and hygroscopic seeding of cumulus clouds.

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R. Paul Lawson
,
Roelof Bruintjes
,
Sarah Woods
, and
Colin Gurganus

Abstract

Understanding ice development in cumulus congestus (CuCg) clouds, which are ubiquitous globally, is critical for improving our knowledge of cloud physics, precipitation and climate prediction models. Results presented here are representative of data collected in 1008 penetrations of moderate to strong updrafts in CuCg clouds by five research aircraft in six geographic locations. The results show that CuCg with warm (∼23°C) cloud-base temperatures, such as in tropical marine environments, experience a strong collision–coalescence process. Development of coalescence is also correlated with drop effective radius >∼12 to 14 μm in diameter. Increasing the cloud-base drop concentration with diameters from 15 to 35 μm and decreasing the drop concentration < 15 μm appears to enhance coalescence. While the boundary layer aerosol population is not a determinate factor in development of coalescence in most tropical marine environments, its impact on coalescence is not yet fully determined. Some supercooled large drops generated via coalescence fracture when freezing, producing a secondary ice process (SIP) with production of copious small ice particles that naturally seed the cloud. The SIP produces an avalanche effect, freezing the majority of supercooled liquid water before fresh updrafts reach the −16°C level. Conversely, CuCg with cloud-base temperatures ≤ ∼8°C develop significant concentrations of ice particles at colder temperatures, so that small supercooled water drops are lofted to higher elevations before freezing. Recirculation of ice in downdrafts at the edges of updrafts appears to be the primary mechanism for development of precipitation in CuCg with colder cloud-base temperatures.

Significance Statement

Cumulus congestus clouds occur globally and account for a significant amount of precipitation in the tropics. The physics underlying the warm rain process and development of ice in cumulus congestus clouds are fundamental to a better understanding of precipitation formation. The collected data show that the strength of collision–coalescence is strongly influenced by cloud-base temperature, and that millimeter-diameter supercooled cloud drops will form in convective clouds with base temperatures warmer than 20°C. When supercooled large drops form, there is a secondary ice process that rapidly freezes the large majority of supercooled cloud water before updrafts reach the −16°C level. Incorporating results from the observations will improve cloud-resolving and climate prediction models.

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Eric J. Jensen
,
Rei Ueyama
,
Leonhard Pfister
,
Thaopaul V. Bui
,
R. Paul Lawson
,
Sarah Woods
,
Troy Thornberry
,
Andrew W. Rollins
,
Glenn S. Diskin
,
Joshua P. DiGangi
, and
Melody A. Avery

Abstract

Numerical simulations of cirrus formation in the tropical tropopause layer (TTL) during boreal wintertime are used to evaluate the impact of heterogeneous ice nuclei (IN) abundance on cold cloud microphysical properties and occurrence frequencies. The cirrus model includes homogeneous and heterogeneous ice nucleation, deposition growth/sublimation, and sedimentation. Reanalysis temperature and wind fields with high-frequency waves superimposed are used to force the simulations. The model results are constrained by comparison with in situ and satellite observations of TTL cirrus and relative humidity. Temperature variability driven by high-frequency waves has a dominant influence on TTL cirrus microphysical properties and occurrence frequencies, and inclusion of these waves is required to produce agreement between the simulated and observed abundance of TTL cirrus. With homogeneous freezing only and small-scale gravity waves included in the temperature curtains, the model produces excessive ice concentrations compared with in situ observations. Inclusion of relatively numerous heterogeneous ice nuclei (N IN ≥ 100 L−1) in the simulations improves the agreement with observed ice concentrations. However, when IN contribute significantly to TTL cirrus ice nucleation, the occurrence frequency of large supersaturations with respect to ice is less than indicated by in situ measurements. The model results suggest that the sensitivity of TTL cirrus extinction and ice water content statistics to heterogeneous ice nuclei abundance is relatively weak. The simulated occurrence frequencies of TTL cirrus are quite insensitive to ice nuclei abundance, both in terms of cloud frequency height distribution and regional distribution throughout the tropics.

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