Articles | Volume 12, issue 11
Research article
07 Jun 2012
Research article |  | 07 Jun 2012

Ice formation and development in aged, wintertime cumulus over the UK: observations and modelling

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

Abstract. In situ high resolution aircraft measurements of cloud microphysical properties were made in coordination with ground based remote sensing observations of a line of small cumulus clouds, using Radar and Lidar, as part of the Aerosol Properties, PRocesses And InfluenceS on the Earth's climate (APPRAISE) project. A narrow but extensive line (~100 km long) of shallow convective clouds over the southern UK was studied. Cloud top temperatures were observed to be higher than −8 °C, but the clouds were seen to consist of supercooled droplets and varying concentrations of ice particles. No ice particles were observed to be falling into the cloud tops from above. Current parameterisations of ice nuclei (IN) numbers predict too few particles will be active as ice nuclei to account for ice particle concentrations at the observed, near cloud top, temperatures (−7.5 °C).

The role of mineral dust particles, consistent with concentrations observed near the surface, acting as high temperature IN is considered important in this case. It was found that very high concentrations of ice particles (up to 100 L−1) could be produced by secondary ice particle production providing the observed small amount of primary ice (about 0.01 L−1) was present to initiate it. This emphasises the need to understand primary ice formation in slightly supercooled clouds. It is shown using simple calculations that the Hallett-Mossop process (HM) is the likely source of the secondary ice.

Model simulations of the case study were performed with the Aerosol Cloud and Precipitation Interactions Model (ACPIM). These parcel model investigations confirmed the HM process to be a very important mechanism for producing the observed high ice concentrations. A key step in generating the high concentrations was the process of collision and coalescence of rain drops, which once formed fell rapidly through the cloud, collecting ice particles which caused them to freeze and form instant large riming particles. The broadening of the droplet size-distribution by collision-coalescence was, therefore, a vital step in this process as this was required to generate the large number of ice crystals observed in the time available.

Simulations were also performed with the WRF (Weather, Research and Forecasting) model. The results showed that while HM does act to increase the mass and number concentration of ice particles in these model simulations it was not found to be critical for the formation of precipitation. However, the WRF simulations produced a cloud top that was too cold and this, combined with the assumption of continual replenishing of ice nuclei removed by ice crystal formation, resulted in too many ice crystals forming by primary nucleation compared to the observations and parcel modelling.

Final-revised paper