Articles | Volume 10, issue 6
29 Mar 2010
 | 29 Mar 2010

Scanning electron microscopy and molecular dynamics of surfaces of growing and ablating hexagonal ice crystals

W. C. Pfalzgraff, R. M. Hulscher, and S. P. Neshyba

Abstract. We present the first clearly resolved observations of surfaces of growing and ablating hexagonal ice crystals using variable-pressure scanning electron microscopy. The ice surface develops trans-prismatic strands, separated from one another by distances of 5–10 μm. The strands are present at a wide range of supersaturations, but are most pronounced at temperatures near the frost point. Pyramidal facets consistent with Miller-Bravais indices of 1011, and possibly also 2021, are associated with ice growth under these conditions. A molecular-dynamics model of a free-standing ice Ih nanocolumn containing 8400 water molecules does not develop trans-prismatic strands, suggesting these features originate at larger spatial or temporal scales. The possible relevance of these surface features to cirrus ice is discussed.

Final-revised paper