Articles | Volume 8, issue 6
18 Mar 2008
18 Mar 2008

Aircraft measurements of microphysical properties of subvisible cirrus in the tropical tropopause layer

R. P. Lawson, B. Pilson, B. Baker, Q. Mo, E. Jensen, L. Pfister, and P. Bui

Abstract. Subvisible cirrus (SVC) clouds are often observed within the tropical tropopause layer (TTL). Some studies suggest that SVC has a significant impact on the earth radiation budget. The Costa Rica Aura Validation Experiment (CR-AVE) sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) took place near San Jose, Costa Rica from 14 January–15 February 2006. The NASA WB-57F sampled SVC in the TTL from −75°C to −90°C with an improved set of cloud particle probes. The first digital images of ice particles in the TTL are compared with replicator images of ice particles collected in 1973 by a WB-57F in the TTL. The newer measurements reveal larger particles, on the order of 100 μm compared with <50 μm from the earlier measurements, and also different particle shapes. The 1973 particles were mainly columnar and trigonal, whereas the newer measurements are quasi-spherical and hexagonal plates. The WB-57F also measured very high water vapor contents with some instruments, up to 4 ppmv, and aerosols with mixed organics and sulfates. It is unknown whether these ambient conditions were present in the 1973 studies, and whether such conditions have an influence on particle shape and the development of the large particles. A companion paper (Jensen et al., 2008) presents crystal growth calculations that suggest that the high water vapor measurements are required to grow ice particles to the observed sizes of 100 μm and larger.

Final-revised paper