Disclaimer: This material is being kept online for historical purposes. Though accurate at the time of publication, it is no longer being updated. The page may contain broken links or outdated information, and parts may not function in current web browsers. Visit espo.nasa.gov for information about our current projects.


Sampling the composition of cirrus ice residuals

Cziczo, D., and K. Froyd (2014), Sampling the composition of cirrus ice residuals, Atmos. Res., 142, 15-31, doi:10.1016/j.atmosres.2013.06.012.

Cirrus are high altitude clouds composed of ice crystals. They are the first tropospheric clouds that can scatter incoming solar radiation and the last which can trap outgoing terrestrial heat. Considering their extensive global coverage, estimated at between 25 and 33% of the Earth's surface, cirrus exert a measurable climate forcing. The global radiative influence depends on a number of properties including their altitude, ice crystal size and number density, and vertical extent. These properties in turn depend on the ability of upper tropospheric aerosol particles to initiate ice formation. Because aerosol populations, and therefore cirrus formation mechanisms, may change due to human activities, the sign of cirrus forcing (a net warming or cooling) due to anthropogenic effects is not universally agreed upon although most modeling studies suggest a positive effect. Cirrus also play a major role in the water cycle in the tropopause region, affecting not only redistribution in the troposphere but also the abundance of vapor entering the stratosphere. Both the current lack of understanding of cirrus properties and the need to improve our ability to project changes due to human activities in the future highlight the critical need to determine the aerosol particles on which cirrus form. This review addresses what is currently known about the abundance, size and composition of cirrus-forming particles. We review aircraft-based field studies which have either collected cirrus ice residuals for off-line analysis or determined their size, composition and other properties in situ by capturing ice crystals and sublimating/removing the condensed phase water. This review is predominantly restricted to cirrus clouds. Limited comparisons are made to other ice-containing (e.g., mixed-phase) cloud types. The findings of recent reviews on laboratory measurements that mimic upper tropospheric cirrus formation are briefly summarized. The limitations of the current state of the art in cirrus ice residual studies are outlined. Important ancillary measurements and how they are integrated with ice residual data are also presented. Concluding statements focus on the need for specific instrumentation and future studies.

PDF of Publication: 
Download from publisher's website.
Research Program: 
Atmospheric Composition Modeling and Analysis Program (ACMAP)
Upper Atmosphere Research Program (UARP)