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Cirrus Microphysics and Radiative Transfer: Cloud Field Study on 28 October 1986

Stefan KinneNASA-Ames, Moffett Field, California

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Thomas P. AckermanThe Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania

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Andrew J. HeymsfieldNational Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

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Francisco P. J. ValeroNASA-Ames, Moffett Field, California

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Kenneth SassenUniversity of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah

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James D. SpinhirneNASA-Goddard, Greenbelt, Maryland

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Abstract

Cloud data acquired during the cirrus intensive field operation of FIRE 86 are analyzed for a 75 × 50-km2 cirrus cloud field that passed over Wausau, Wisconsin, during the morning of 28 October 1986. Remote-sensing measurements from the stratosphere and the ground detect an inhomogeneous cloud structure between 6 and 11 km in altitude. The measurements differentiate between an optically thicker (τ > 3) cirrus deck characterized by sheared precipitation trails and an optically thinner (τ < 2) cirrus cloud field in which individual cells of liquid water are imbedded. Simultaneous measurements of particle-size spectra and broadband radiative fluxes at multiple altitudes in the lower half of the cloud provide the basis for a comparison between measured and calculated fluxes. The calculated fluxes are derived from observations of cloud-particle-size distributions, cloud structure, and atmospheric conditions. Comparison of the modeled fluxes with the measurements shows that the model results underestimate the solar reflectivity and attenuation, as well as the downward infrared fluxes. Some of this discrepancy may be due to cloud inhomogeneities or to uncertainties in cloud microphysics, since there were no measurements of small ice crystals available, nor any microphysical measurements in the upper portion of the cirrus. Reconciling the model results with the measurements can be achieved either by adding large concentrations of small ice crystals or by altering the backscattering properties of the ice crystals. These results suggest that additional theoretical and experimental studies on small compact shapes, hollow ice crystals, and shapes with branches are needed. Also, new aircraft instrumentation is needed that can detect ice crystals with maximum dimensions between 5 and 50 μm.

Abstract

Cloud data acquired during the cirrus intensive field operation of FIRE 86 are analyzed for a 75 × 50-km2 cirrus cloud field that passed over Wausau, Wisconsin, during the morning of 28 October 1986. Remote-sensing measurements from the stratosphere and the ground detect an inhomogeneous cloud structure between 6 and 11 km in altitude. The measurements differentiate between an optically thicker (τ > 3) cirrus deck characterized by sheared precipitation trails and an optically thinner (τ < 2) cirrus cloud field in which individual cells of liquid water are imbedded. Simultaneous measurements of particle-size spectra and broadband radiative fluxes at multiple altitudes in the lower half of the cloud provide the basis for a comparison between measured and calculated fluxes. The calculated fluxes are derived from observations of cloud-particle-size distributions, cloud structure, and atmospheric conditions. Comparison of the modeled fluxes with the measurements shows that the model results underestimate the solar reflectivity and attenuation, as well as the downward infrared fluxes. Some of this discrepancy may be due to cloud inhomogeneities or to uncertainties in cloud microphysics, since there were no measurements of small ice crystals available, nor any microphysical measurements in the upper portion of the cirrus. Reconciling the model results with the measurements can be achieved either by adding large concentrations of small ice crystals or by altering the backscattering properties of the ice crystals. These results suggest that additional theoretical and experimental studies on small compact shapes, hollow ice crystals, and shapes with branches are needed. Also, new aircraft instrumentation is needed that can detect ice crystals with maximum dimensions between 5 and 50 μm.

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