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B. Gasparini, A. Meyer, D. Neubauer, S. Münch, and U. Lohmann

Abstract

Cirrus clouds impact the planetary energy balance and upper-tropospheric water vapor transport and are therefore relevant for climate. In this study cirrus clouds at temperatures colder than −40°C simulated by the ECHAM–Hamburg Aerosol Module (ECHAM-HAM) general circulation model are compared to Cloud–Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) satellite data. The model captures the general cloud cover pattern and reproduces the observed median ice water content within a factor of 2, while extinction is overestimated by about a factor of 3 as revealed by temperature-dependent frequency histograms. Two distinct types of cirrus clouds are found: in situ–formed cirrus dominating at temperatures colder than −55°C and liquid-origin cirrus dominating at temperatures warmer than −55°C. The latter cirrus form in anvils of deep convective clouds or by glaciation of mixed-phase clouds, leading to high ice crystal number concentrations. They are associated with extinction coefficients and ice water content of up to 1 km−1 and 0.1 g m−3, respectively, while the in situ–formed cirrus are associated with smaller extinction coefficients and ice water content. In situ–formed cirrus are nucleated either heterogeneously or homogeneously. The simulated homogeneous ice crystals are similar to liquid-origin cirrus, which are associated with high ice crystal number concentrations. On the contrary, heterogeneously nucleated ice crystals appear in smaller number concentrations. However, ice crystal aggregation and depositional growth smooth the differences between several formation mechanisms, making the attribution to a specific ice nucleation mechanism challenging.

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