13 Feb 2023
 | 13 Feb 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Microphysical and thermodynamic phase analyses of Arctic low-level clouds measured above the sea ice and the open ocean in spring and summer

Manuel Moser, Christiane Voigt, Tina Jurkat-Witschas, Valerian Hahn, Guillaume Mioche, Olivier Jourdan, Régis Dupuy, Christophe Gourbeyre, Alfons Schwarzenboeck, Johannes Lucke, Yvonne Boose, Mario Mech, Stephan Borrmann, André Ehrlich, Andreas Herber, Christof Lüpkes, and Manfred Wendisch

Abstract. Airborne in-situ cloud measurements were carried out over the northern Fram Strait between Greenland and Svalbard in spring 2019 and summer 2020. In total, 815 minutes of low-level cloud observations were performed during 20 research flights above the sea ice and the open Arctic ocean with the Polar 5 research aircraft of the Alfred Wegener Institute. Here, we combine the comprehensive in-situ cloud data to investigate the distributions of particle number concentration N, effective diameter Deff and cloud water content CWC (liquid and ice) of Arctic clouds below 500 m altitude, measured at latitudes between 76 and 83° N. We developed a method to quantitatively derive the occurrence probability of their thermodynamic phase from the combination of microphysical cloud probe and Polar Nephelometer data. Finally, we assess changes in cloud microphysics and cloud phase related to ambient meteorological conditions in spring and summer and address effects of the sea ice and open ocean surface conditions. We find median N from 0.2 to 51.7 cm-3 and about two orders of magnitude higher N for mainly liquid clouds in summer compared to ice and mixed-phase clouds measured in spring. A southerly flow from the sea ice in cold air outbreaks dominates cloud formation processes at temperatures mostly below -10 °C in spring, while northerly warm air intrusions favor the formation of liquid clouds at warmer temperatures in summer. Our results show slightly higher N in clouds over the sea ice compared to the open ocean in both seasons, indicating enhanced cloud formation processes over the sea ice. The median CWC is higher in summer (0.16 g m-3) than in winter (0.05 g m-3) as this is dominated by the available atmospheric water content and the temperatures at cloud formation. We find large differences in the particle sizes in spring and summer and an impact of the surface conditions, which modify the heat and moisture fluxes in the boundary layer. By combining microphysical cloud data with thermodynamic phase information from the Polar Nephelometer, we find mixed-phase clouds as the dominant thermodynamic cloud phase in spring with a frequency of occurrence of 61 % over the sea ice and 66 % over the ocean. Pure ice clouds exist almost exclusively over the open ocean in spring, and in summer the cloud particles are most likely in the liquid water state. The comprehensive low-level cloud data set will help to better understand the role of clouds and their thermodynamic phase in the Arctic radiation budget and to assess the performance of global climate models in a region of the world with strongest anthropogenic climate change.

Manuel Moser et al.

Status: open (until 11 Apr 2023)

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Manuel Moser et al.

Manuel Moser et al.


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Short summary
This study provides comprehensive microphysical and thermodynamic phase analyses of low-level cloud properties in the northern Fram Strait, above the sea ice and the open ocean, during spring and summer. Using data collected by airborne in-situ cloud instruments during 20 research flights in the vicinity of Svalbard, we show that Arctic low-level cloud properties vary significantly with the seasonal meteorological situations and surface conditions.