Articles | Volume 9, issue 18
Special issue:
18 Sep 2009
 | 18 Sep 2009

Evidence for ice particles in the tropical stratosphere from in-situ measurements

M. de Reus, S. Borrmann, A. Bansemer, A. J. Heymsfield, R. Weigel, C. Schiller, V. Mitev, W. Frey, D. Kunkel, A. Kürten, J. Curtius, N. M. Sitnikov, A. Ulanovsky, and F. Ravegnani

Abstract. In-situ ice crystal size distribution measurements are presented within the tropical troposphere and lower stratosphere. The measurements were performed using a combination of a Forward Scattering Spectrometer Probe (FSSP-100) and a Cloud Imaging Probe (CIP), which were installed on the Russian high altitude research aircraft M55 "Geophysica" during the SCOUT-O3 campaign in Darwin, Australia. One of the objectives of the campaign was to characterise the Hector convective system, which appears on an almost daily basis during the pre-monsoon season over the Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin. In total 90 encounters with ice clouds, between 10 and 19 km altitude were selected from the dataset and were analysed. Six of these encounters were observed in the lower stratosphere, up to 1.4 km above the local tropopause. Concurrent lidar measurements on board "Geophysica" indicate that these ice clouds were a result of overshooting convection. Large ice crystals, with a maximum dimension up to 400 μm, were observed in the stratosphere. The stratospheric ice clouds included an ice water content ranging from 7.7×10−5 to 8.5×10−4 g m−3 and were observed at ambient relative humidities (with respect to ice) between 75 and 157%. Three modal lognormal size distributions were fitted to the average size distributions for different potential temperature intervals, showing that the shape of the size distribution of the stratospheric ice clouds are similar to those observed in the upper troposphere.

In the tropical troposphere the effective radius of the ice cloud particles decreases from 100 μm at about 10 km altitude, to 3 μm at the tropopause, while the ice water content decreases from 0.04 to 10−5 g m−3. No clear trend in the number concentration was observed with altitude, due to the thin and inhomogeneous characteristics of the observed cirrus clouds.

The ice water content calculated from the observed ice crystal size distribution is compared to the ice water content derived from two hygrometer instruments. This independent measurement of the ice water content agrees within the combined uncertainty of the instruments for ice water contents exceeding 3×10−4g m−3.

Stratospheric residence times, calculated based on gravitational settling, and evaporation rates show that the ice crystals observed in the stratosphere over the Hector storm system had a high potential of humidifying the stratosphere locally.

Utilizing total aerosol number concentration measurements from a four channel condensation particle counter during two separate campaigns, it can be shown that the fraction of ice particles to the number of aerosol particles remaining ranges from 1:300 to 1:30 000 for tropical upper tropospheric ice clouds with ambient temperatures below −75°C.

Special issue
Final-revised paper