The evolution of microphysical and optical properties of an A380 contrail in the vortex phase
Abstract. A contrail from a large-body A380 aircraft at cruise in the humid upper troposphere has been probed with in-situ instruments onboard the DLR research aircraft Falcon. The contrail was sampled during 700 s measurement time at contrail ages of about 1–4 min. The contrail was in the vortex regime during which the primary wake vortices were sinking 270 m below the A380 flight level while the secondary wake remained above. Contrail properties were sampled separately in the primary wake at 90 and 115 s contrail age and nearly continously in the secondary wake at contrail ages from 70 s to 220 s. The scattering phase functions of the contrail particles were measured with a polar nephelometer. The asymmetry parameter derived from these data is used to distinguish between quasi-spherical and aspherical ice particles. In the primary wake, quasi-spherical ice particles were found with concentrations up to 160 cm−3, mean effective diameter Deff of 3.7 μm, maximum extinction of 7.0 km−1, and ice water content (IWC) of 3 mg m−3 at slightly ice-subsaturated conditions. The secondary and primary wakes were separated by an almost particle-free wake vortex gap. The secondary wake contained clearly aspherical contrail ice particles with mean Deff of 4.8 μm, mean (maximum) concentration, extinction, and IWC of 80 (350) cm−3, 1.6 (5.0) km−1, and 2.5 (10) mg m−3, respectively, at conditions apparently above ice-saturation. The asymmetry parameter in the secondary wake decreased with contrail age from 0.87 to 0.80 on average indicating a preferential aspherical ice crystal growth. A retrieval of ice particle habit and size with an inversion code shows that the number fraction of aspherical ice crystals increased from 2% initially to 56% at 4 min contrail age. The observed crystal size and habit differences in the primary and secondary wakes of an up to 4 min old contrail are of interest for understanding ice crystal growth in contrails and their climate impact. Aspherical contrail ice particles cause less radiative forcing than spherical ones.