Articles | Volume 11, issue 1
Research article
13 Jan 2011
Research article |  | 13 Jan 2011

Observations of ice multiplication in a weakly convective cell embedded in supercooled mid-level stratus

J. Crosier, K. N. Bower, T. W. Choularton, C. D. Westbrook, P. J. Connolly, Z. Q. Cui, I. P. Crawford, G. L. Capes, H. Coe, J. R. Dorsey, P. I. Williams, A. J. Illingworth, M. W. Gallagher, and A. M. Blyth

Abstract. Simultaneous observations of cloud microphysical properties were obtained by in-situ aircraft measurements and ground based Radar/Lidar. Widespread mid-level stratus cloud was present below a temperature inversion (~5 °C magnitude) at 3.6 km altitude. Localised convection (peak updraft 1.5 m s−1) was observed 20 km west of the Radar station. This was associated with convergence at 2.5 km altitude. The convection was unable to penetrate the inversion capping the mid-level stratus.

The mid-level stratus cloud was vertically thin (~400 m), horizontally extensive (covering 100 s of km) and persisted for more than 24 h. The cloud consisted of supercooled water droplets and small concentrations of large (~1 mm) stellar/plate like ice which slowly precipitated out. This ice was nucleated at temperatures greater than −12.2 °C and less than −10.0 °C, (cloud top and cloud base temperatures, respectively). No ice seeding from above the cloud layer was observed. This ice was formed by primary nucleation, either through the entrainment of efficient ice nuclei from above/below cloud, or by the slow stochastic activation of immersion freezing ice nuclei contained within the supercooled drops. Above cloud top significant concentrations of sub-micron aerosol were observed and consisted of a mixture of sulphate and carbonaceous material, a potential source of ice nuclei. Particle number concentrations (in the size range 0.1<D<3.0 μm) were measured above and below cloud in concentrations of ~25 cm−3. Ice crystal concentrations in the cloud were constant at around 0.2 L−1. It is estimated that entrainment of aerosol particles into cloud cannot replenish the loss of ice nuclei from the cloud layer via precipitation.

Precipitation from the mid-level stratus evaporated before reaching the surface, whereas rates of up to 1 mm h−1 were observed below the convective feature. There is strong evidence for the Hallett-Mossop (HM) process of secondary ice particle production leading to the formation of the precipitation observed. This includes (1) Ice concentrations in the convective feature were more than an order of magnitude greater than the concentration of primary ice in the overlaying stratus, (2) Large concentrations of small pristine columns were observed at the ~−5 °C level together with liquid water droplets and a few rimed ice particles, (3) Columns were larger and increasingly rimed at colder temperatures. Calculated ice splinter production rates are consistent with observed concentrations if the condition that only droplets greater than 24 μm are capable of generating secondary ice splinters is relaxed.

This case demonstrates the importance of understanding the formation of ice at slightly supercooled temperatures, as it can lead to secondary ice production and the formation of precipitation in clouds which may not otherwise be considered as significant precipitation sources.

Final-revised paper