A global view of atmospheric ice particle complexity

Geophysical Research Letters | Schmitt et al. [2016]


Atmospheric ice particles exist in a variety of shapes and sizes. Single hexagonal crystals like common hexagonal plates and columns are possible, but more frequently, atmospheric ice particles are much more complex. Ice particle shapes have a substantial impact on many atmospheric processes through fall speed, affecting cloud lifetime, to radiative properties, affecting energy balance to name a few. This publication builds on earlier work where a technique was demonstrated to separate single crystals and aggregates of crystals using particle imagery data from aircraft field campaigns. Here, data from 10 field programs have been analyzed and ice particle complexity parameterized by cloud temperature for arctic, mid-latitude (summer and frontal), and tropical cloud systems. Results show that the transition from simple to complex particles can be as small as 80 microns or as large as 400 microns depending on conditions. All regimes show trends of decreasing transition size with decreasing temperature.

Full text can be found here.



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