Articles | Volume 12, issue 4
Research article
21 Feb 2012
Research article |  | 21 Feb 2012

A laboratory investigation into the aggregation efficiency of small ice crystals

P. J. Connolly, C. Emersic, and P. R. Field

Abstract. The aggregation of ice crystals and its temperature dependence is studied in the laboratory using a large ice cloud chamber. This process is important to the evolution of ice clouds in earth's atmosphere, yet there have been relatively few laboratory studies quantifying this parameter and its dependence on temperature. A detailed microphysical model is used to interpret the results from the experiments and derive best estimates for the aggregation efficiency as well as error bars. Our best estimates for the aggregation efficiency, at temperatures other than −15 °C, (in the interval −30≤T≤5 °C) are mostly in agreement with previous findings, which were derived using a very different approach to that described here. While the errors associated with such experiments are reasonably large, statistically, at temperatures other than −15, we are able to rule out aggregation efficiencies larger than 0.5 at the 75th percentile and rule out non-zero values at −15 °C, whereas at −15 °C we can rule out values higher than 0.85 and values lower than 0.35. The values of the aggregation efficiency shown here may be used in model studies of aggregation, but care must be taken that they only apply for the initial stages of aggregate growth, with humidities at or close to water saturation, and for particles up to a maximum size of ~500 μm. They may therefore find useful application for modelling supercooled mid-level layer clouds that contain ice crystals, which are known to be important radiatively.

Final-revised paper