Variation of Ice Crystal Size, Shape and Asymmetry Parameter in Tops of Convective Storm Systems Observed during SEAC4RS

Friday, 19 December 2014
Bastiaan van Diedenhoven1,2, Brian Cairns2, Ann M Fridlind2 and Andrew S Ackerman2, (1)Columbia University of New York, Palisades, NY, United States, (2)NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, NY, United States
The sizes and shapes of ice particles in tops of convective storms have a significant impact on their radiative properties. Ice crystal sizes and shapes likely vary with altitude, environmental conditions and convective strength, but these relationships are not well characterized. The rich dataset of the NASA SEAC4RS field campaign offers unique perspectives to further identify variations of ice crystal sizes and shapes and their relations to environmental and dynamical conditions. Here we focus on data acquired with the Research Scanning Polarimeter (RSP), which was mounted on the high-altitude ER-2 aircraft during SEAC4RS. RSP’s unique multi-angular, multi-wavelength total and polarized reflectance measurements allow retrieval of ice effective radius, the aspect ratio of components of ice crystals, the crystal distortion level and ice asymmetry parameter, as well as cloud optical thickness and cloud top height. Using RSP data, as well as data from the eMAS and CPL sensors and in situ probes, we explore the statistical variation of ice properties retrieved during SEAC4RS in tops of convective systems. The data indicates that, in general, ice crystal populations consistent with plate-like components with aspect ratios near 0.4 are prevalent at cloud tops. The asymmetry parameter is around 0.76-0.8 and generally decreases with increasing cloud top height, mainly because the ice crystal distortion increases with height. Below about 12 km height, the effective radius decreases with increasing altitude, as previously shown for convective clouds using satellite data, but at higher levels the SEAC4RS data indicate a transition to effective radii increasing with cloud top height. Here we explore some possible explanations for this transition, related to its approximate coincidence with the level of minimum stability and the homogeneous freezing level, either of which could affect ice crystal formation and evolution. Additionally, we will demonstrate some of the variability in ice crystal size, shape and asymmetry parameter at different locations and atmospheric conditions observed during SEAC4RS.