Articles | Volume 12, issue 9
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 4207–4214, 2012

Special issue: Light depolarization by atmospheric particles: theory and...

Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 4207–4214, 2012

Research article 11 May 2012

Research article | 11 May 2012

Circular depolarization ratios of single water droplets and finite ice circular cylinders: a modeling study

M. Nicolet1, M. Schnaiter2, and O. Stetzer1 M. Nicolet et al.
  • 1Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, 8092, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2Institute for Meteorology and Climate Research, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), 76344 Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen, Germany

Abstract. Computations of the phase matrix elements for single water droplets and ice crystals in fixed orientations are presented to determine if circular depolarization δC is more accurate than linear depolarization for phase discrimination. T-matrix simulations were performed to calculate right-handed and left-handed circular depolarization ratios δ+C, respectively δ−C and to compare them with linear ones. Ice crystals are assumed to have a circular cylindrical shape where their surface-equivalent diameters range up to 5 μm. The circular depolarization ratios of ice particles were generally higher than linear depolarization and depended mostly on the particle orientation as well as their sizes. The fraction of non-detectable ice crystals (δ<0.05) was smaller considering a circular polarized light source, reaching 4.5%. However, water droplets also depolarized light circularly for scattering angles smaller than 179° and size parameters smaller than 6 at side- and backscattering regions. Differentiation between ice crystals and water droplets might be difficult for experiments performed at backscattering angles which deviate from 180° unlike LIDAR applications. Instruments exploiting the difference in the P44/P11 ratio at a scattering angle around 115° are significantly constrained in distinguishing between water and ice because small droplets with size parameters between 5 and 10 do cause very high circular depolarizations at this angle. If the absence of the liquid phase is confirmed, the use of circular depolarization in single particle detection is more sensitive and less affected by particle orientation.

Final-revised paper