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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  15 Jul 2020

15 Jul 2020

Review status
This preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Captured Cirrus Ice Particles in High Definition

Nathan Magee1, Katie Boaggio2, Samantha Staskiewicz7, Aaron Lynn1, Xuanyi Zhao1, Nicholas Tusay1, Terance Schuh1, Manisha Bandamede4, Lucas Bancroft6, David Connolly5, Kevin Hurler3, Bryan Miner1, and Elissa Khoudary1 Nathan Magee et al.
  • 1The College of New Jersey (TCNJ)
  • 2ORISE Participant at U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • 3University of South Carolina
  • 4Ross University School of Medicine
  • 5Cornell University
  • 6Universal Display Corporation
  • 7The Pennsylvania State University

Abstract. Cirrus clouds composed of small ice crystals are often the first solid matter encountered by sunlight as it streams into Earth’s atmosphere. A broad array of recent research has emphasized that photon-particle scattering calculations are very sensitive to ice particle morphology, complexity, and surface roughness. Uncertain variations in these parameters have major implications for successfully parameterizing the radiative ramifications of cirrus clouds in climate models. To date, characterization of the microscale details of cirrus particle morphology has been limited by the particles’ inaccessibility and technical difficulty in capturing imagery with sufficient resolution. Results from a new experimental system achieve much higher resolution images of cirrus ice particles than existing airborne particle imaging systems. The novel system (Ice Cryo-Encapsulation by Balloon, ICE-Ball) employs a balloon-borne payload with environmental sensors and hermetically-sealed cryo-encapsulation cells. The payload captures ice particles from cirrus clouds, seals them, and returns them via parachute for vapor-locked transfer onto a cryo-scanning electron microscopy stage (cryo-SEM). From 2016–2019, the ICE-Ball system has successfully yielded high resolution particle images on nine cirrus-penetrating flights. On several flights, including one highlighted here in detail, thousands of cirrus particles were retrieved and imaged, revealing unanticipated particle morphologies, extensive habit heterogeneity, multiple scales of mesoscale roughening, a wide array of embedded aerosol particles, and even greater complexity than expected.

Nathan Magee et al.

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Nathan Magee et al.

Nathan Magee et al.


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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
The cryo-electron microscopy images and analysis in this paper result from the first balloon-borne capture, preservation, and high-resolution imaging of ice particles from cirrus clouds. The images show cirrus particle complexity in unprecedented detail, revealing unexpected morphology, a mixture of surface roughness scales and patterns, embedded aerosols, and a large variety of habits within a single cloud. The results should inform ongoing efforts to refine modeling of cirrus radiative impact.
The cryo-electron microscopy images and analysis in this paper result from the first...