Heterogeneous ice nucleation on atmospheric aerosols: a review of results from laboratory experiments
- Institute for Meteorology and Climate Research – Atmospheric Aerosol Research, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany
Abstract. A small subset of the atmospheric aerosol population has the ability to induce ice formation at conditions under which ice would not form without them (heterogeneous ice nucleation). While no closed theoretical description of this process and the requirements for good ice nuclei is available, numerous studies have attempted to quantify the ice nucleation ability of different particles empirically in laboratory experiments. In this article, an overview of these results is provided. Ice nucleation "onset" conditions for various mineral dust, soot, biological, organic and ammonium sulfate particles are summarized. Typical temperature-supersaturation regions can be identified for the "onset" of ice nucleation of these different particle types, but the various particle sizes and activated fractions reported in different studies have to be taken into account when comparing results obtained with different methodologies. When intercomparing only data obtained under the same conditions, it is found that dust mineralogy is not a consistent predictor of higher or lower ice nucleation ability. However, the broad majority of studies agrees on a reduction of deposition nucleation by various coatings on mineral dust. The ice nucleation active surface site (INAS) density is discussed as a simple and empirical normalized measure for ice nucleation activity. For most immersion and condensation freezing measurements on mineral dust, estimates of the temperature-dependent INAS density agree within about two orders of magnitude. For deposition nucleation on dust, the spread is significantly larger, but a general trend of increasing INAS densities with increasing supersaturation is found. For soot, the presently available results are divergent. Estimated average INAS densities are high for ice-nucleation active bacteria at high subzero temperatures. At the same time, it is shown that INAS densities of some other biological aerosols, like certain pollen grains, fungal spores and diatoms, tend to be similar to those of dust. These particles may owe their high ice nucleation onsets to their large sizes. Surface-area-dependent parameterizations of heterogeneous ice nucleation are discussed. For immersion freezing on mineral dust, fitted INAS densities are available, but should not be used outside the temperature interval of the data they were based on. Classical nucleation theory, if employed with only one fitted contact angle, does not reproduce the observed temperature dependence for immersion nucleation, the temperature and supersaturation dependence for deposition nucleation, and the time dependence of ice nucleation. Formulations of classical nucleation theory with distributions of contact angles offer possibilities to overcome these weaknesses.