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Ulrike Burkhardt
,
Bernd Kärcher
, and
Ulrich Schumann

Despite considerable technological advances, aviation impacts on global climate are significant and may constitute a future constraint on the continued growth of air travel. The most important but least understood component in aviation climate impact assessments are contrails, which form as line-shaped ice clouds (linear contrails) and transform into irregularly shaped ice clouds (contrail cirrus) in favorable meteorological conditions. No reliable best estimate of the contribution of contrail cirrus to climate change exists, but statistical evidence from cirrus trend analyses suggests a potentially large contribution. This article reviews the scientific knowledge and key problems regarding the modeling of the life cycle of contrail cirrus (including linear contrails), their global climate impact, and the validation of model simulations with suitable observational datasets. The prerequisites for global modeling of contrail cirrus, such as the representation of ice supersaturation and the processes governing contrail cirrus evolution as well as improvements in the cloud schemes regarding cirrus, are discussed. Recommendations are given for avenues of research to ensure that future decisions aimed at mitigating the climate impact of contrails and contrail cirrus are based on increasingly sound scientific knowledge.

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Andrew Heymsfield
,
Darrel Baumgardner
,
Paul DeMott
,
Piers Forster
,
Klaus Gierens
, and
Bernd Kärcher

This article reviews the current state of understanding of the science of contrails: 1) how they are formed, 2) their microphysical properties as they evolve into contrail cirrus and whether their microphysical properties can be distinguished from natural cirrus, and 3) the ice-nucleating properties of soot aerosols and whether these aerosols can nucleate cirrus crystals. Key gaps and underlying uncertainties in our understanding of contrails and their effect on local, regional, and global climate are identified. These include 1) better quantification of the fraction of ice number and mass that survives the vortex phase and the aircraft-specific influences on the vortex dynamics, 2) more accurate measurements of the ice crystal size distributions of contrail cirrus and cirrus in general, which are uncertain because of instrument limitations, and 3) more measurements of the ice-nucleating properties of aircraft exhaust and other ambient ice nuclei in situ under cirrus-forming conditions. Future field campaigns aimed at satisfying measurement needs are proposed.

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Ruei-Fong Lin
,
David O'C. Starr
,
Paul J. DeMott
,
Richard Cotton
,
Kenneth Sassen
,
Eric Jensen
,
Bernd Kärcher
, and
Xiaohong Liu

Abstract

The Cirrus Parcel Model Comparison Project, a project of the GCSS [Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment (GEWEX) Cloud System Studies] Working Group on Cirrus Cloud Systems, involves the systematic comparison of current models of ice crystal nucleation and growth for specified, typical, cirrus cloud environments. In Phase 1 of the project reported here, simulated cirrus cloud microphysical properties from seven models are compared for “warm” (−40°C) and “cold” (−60°C) cirrus, each subject to updrafts of 0.04, 0.2, and 1 m s−1. The models employ explicit microphysical schemes wherein the size distribution of each class of particles (aerosols and ice crystals) is resolved into bins or the evolution of each individual particle is traced. Simulations are made including both homogeneous and heterogeneous ice nucleation mechanisms (all-mode simulations). A single initial aerosol population of sulfuric acid particles is prescribed for all simulations. Heterogeneous nucleation is disabled for a second parallel set of simulations in order to isolate the treatment of the homogeneous freezing (of haze droplets) nucleation process. Analysis of these latter simulations is the primary focus of this paper.

Qualitative agreement is found for the homogeneous-nucleation-only simulations; for example, the number density of nucleated ice crystals increases with the strength of the prescribed updraft. However, significant quantitative differences are found. Detailed analysis reveals that the homogeneous nucleation rate, haze particle solution concentration, and water vapor uptake rate by ice crystal growth (particularly as controlled by the deposition coefficient) are critical components that lead to differences in the predicted microphysics.

Systematic differences exist between results based on a modified classical theory approach and models using an effective freezing temperature approach to the treatment of nucleation. Each method is constrained by critical freezing data from laboratory studies, but each includes assumptions that can only be justified by further laboratory research. Consequently, it is not yet clear if the two approaches can be made consistent. Large haze particles may deviate considerably from equilibrium size in moderate to strong updrafts (0.2–1 m s−1) at −60°C. The equilibrium assumption is commonly invoked in cirrus parcel models. The resulting difference in particle-size-dependent solution concentration of haze particles may significantly affect the ice particle formation rate during the initial nucleation interval. The uptake rate for water vapor excess by ice crystals is another key component regulating the total number of nucleated ice crystals. This rate, the product of particle number concentration and ice crystal diffusional growth rate, which is particularly sensitive to the deposition coefficient when ice particles are small, modulates the peak particle formation rate achieved in an air parcel and the duration of the active nucleation time period. The consequent differences in cloud microphysical properties, and thus cloud optical properties, between state-of-the-art models of ice crystal initiation are significant.

Intermodel differences in the case of all-mode simulations are correspondingly greater than in the case of homogeneous nucleation acting alone. Definitive laboratory and atmospheric benchmark data are needed to improve the treatment of heterogeneous nucleation processes.

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Aurélien Podglajen
,
T. Paul Bui
,
Jonathan M. Dean-Day
,
Leonhard Pfister
,
Eric J. Jensen
,
M. Joan Alexander
,
Albert Hertzog
,
Bernd Kärcher
,
Riwal Plougonven
, and
William J. Randel

Abstract

The contribution of turbulent mixing to heat and tracer transport in the tropical tropopause layer (TTL) is poorly constrained, partly owing to a lack of direct observations. Here, the authors use high-resolution (20 Hz) airborne measurements to study the occurrence and properties of small-scale (<100 m) wind fluctuations in the TTL (14–19 km) over the tropical Pacific. The fluctuations are highly intermittent and appear localized within shallow (100 m) patches. Furthermore, active turbulent events are more frequent at low altitude, near deep convection, and within layers of low gradient Richardson number. A case study emphasizes the link between the turbulent events and the occurrence of inertio-gravity waves having small horizontal or vertical scale. To evaluate the impact of the observed fluctuations on tracer mixing, their characteristics are examined. During active events, they are in broad agreement with inertial-range turbulence theory: the motions are close to 3D isotropic and the spectra follow a −5/3 power-law scaling. The diffusivity induced by turbulent bursts is estimated to be on the order of 10−1 m2 s−1 and increases from the top to the bottom of the TTL (from ~2 × 10−2 to ~3 × 10−1 m2 s−1). Given the uncertainties involved in the estimate, this is in reasonable agreement (about a factor of 3–4 lower) with the parameterized turbulent diffusivity in ERA-Interim, but it disagrees with other observational estimates from radar and radiosondes. The magnitude of the consequent vertical transport depends on the altitude and the tracer; for the species considered, it is generally smaller than that induced by the mean tropical upwelling.

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