Articles | Volume 16, issue 21
Research article
11 Nov 2016
Research article |  | 11 Nov 2016

Observed microphysical changes in Arctic mixed-phase clouds when transitioning from sea ice to open ocean

Gillian Young, Hazel M. Jones, Thomas W. Choularton, Jonathan Crosier, Keith N. Bower, Martin W. Gallagher, Rhiannon S. Davies, Ian A. Renfrew, Andrew D. Elvidge, Eoghan Darbyshire, Franco Marenco, Philip R. A. Brown, Hugo M. A. Ricketts, Paul J. Connolly, Gary Lloyd, Paul I. Williams, James D. Allan, Jonathan W. Taylor, Dantong Liu, and Michael J. Flynn

Abstract. In situ airborne observations of cloud microphysics, aerosol properties, and thermodynamic structure over the transition from sea ice to ocean are presented from the Aerosol-Cloud Coupling And Climate Interactions in the Arctic (ACCACIA) campaign. A case study from 23 March 2013 provides a unique view of the cloud microphysical changes over this transition under cold-air outbreak conditions.

Cloud base lifted and cloud depth increased over the transition from sea ice to ocean. Mean droplet number concentrations, Ndrop, also increased from 110 ± 36 cm−3 over the sea ice to 145 ± 54 cm−3 over the marginal ice zone (MIZ). Downstream over the ocean, Ndrop decreased to 63 ± 30 cm−3. This reduction was attributed to enhanced collision-coalescence of droplets within the deep ocean cloud layer. The liquid water content increased almost four fold over the transition and this, in conjunction with the deeper cloud layer, allowed rimed snowflakes to develop and precipitate out of cloud base downstream over the ocean.

The ice properties of the cloud remained approximately constant over the transition. Observed ice crystal number concentrations averaged approximately 0.5–1.5 L−1, suggesting only primary ice nucleation was active; however, there was evidence of crystal fragmentation at cloud base over the ocean. Little variation in aerosol particle number concentrations was observed between the different surface conditions; however, some variability with altitude was observed, with notably greater concentrations measured at higher altitudes ( >  800 m) over the sea ice. Near-surface boundary layer temperatures increased by 13 °C from sea ice to ocean, with corresponding increases in surface heat fluxes and turbulent kinetic energy. These significant thermodynamic changes were concluded to be the primary driver of the microphysical evolution of the cloud. This study represents the first investigation, using in situ airborne observations, of cloud microphysical changes with changing sea ice cover and addresses the question of how the microphysics of Arctic stratiform clouds may change as the region warms and sea ice extent reduces.

Short summary
Clouds are intricately coupled to the Arctic sea ice. Our inability to accurately model cloud fractions causes large uncertainties in predicted radiative interactions in this region, therefore, affecting sea ice forecasts. Here, we present measurements of cloud microphysics, aerosol properties, and thermodynamic structure over the transition from sea ice to ocean to improve our understanding of the relationship between the Arctic atmosphere and clouds which develop in this region.
Final-revised paper