The Microphysics of Ice and Precipitation Development in Tropical Cumulus Clouds

Lawson, P., S. Woods, and H. Morrison (2015), The Microphysics of Ice and Precipitation Development in Tropical Cumulus Clouds, J. Atmos. Sci., 72, 2429-2445, doi:10.1175/JAS-D-14-0274.1.

The rapid glaciation of tropical cumulus clouds has been an enigma and has been debated in the literature for over 60 years. Possible mechanisms responsible for the rapid freezing have been postulated, but until now direct evidence has been lacking. Recent high-speed photography of electrostatically suspended supercooled drops in the laboratory has shown that freezing events produce small secondary ice particles. Aircraft observations from the Ice in Clouds Experiment–Tropical (ICE-T), strongly suggest that the drop-freezing secondary ice production mechanism is operating in strong, tropical cumulus updraft cores. The result is the production of small ice particles colliding with large supercooled drops (hundreds of microns up to millimeters in diameter), producing a cascading process that results in rapid glaciation of water drops in the updraft. The process was analyzed from data collected using state-of-the-art cloud particle probes during 54 Learjet penetrations of strong cumulus updraft cores over open ocean in a temperature range from 58 to 2208C. Repeated Learjet penetrations of an updraft core containing 3–5 g m23 supercooled liquid showed an order-of-magnitude decrease in liquid mass concentration 3 min later at an elevation 1–1.5 km higher in the cloud. The aircraft observations were simulated using a one-dimensional cloud model with explicit bin microphysics. The model was initialized with drop and ice particle size distributions observed prior to rapid glaciation. Simulations show that the model can explain the observed rapid glaciation by the drop-freezing secondary ice production process and subsequent riming, which results when large supercooled drops collide with ice particles.

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Radiation Science Program (RSP)