Ice aspect ratio influences on mixed-phase clouds: Impacts on phase partitioning in parcel models

Kara J. Sulia, Jerry Y. Harrington

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57 Scopus citations


The influences of evolving ice habit on the maintenance and glaciation of stratiform mixed-phase clouds are examined theoretically. Unlike most current modeling methods where a single axis length is predicted, the primary habits, or two axis lengths, are computed explicitly. The method produces a positive non-linear feedback between mass growth and crystal aspect ratio evolution. Furthermore, ice particle growth has a distinct initial-size dependence with smaller initial ice particles evolving into more extreme crystal shapes with greater overall mass. This feedback cannot be captured with simpler growth methods, leading to underestimates of ice growth and mixed-phase glaciation. Aspect ratio prediction is most critical for mixed-phase maintenance at temperatures where pronounced habits exist (dendritic growth, T = -15C and needle growth, -6C) and at ice concentrations between 1 L-1 and 100 L-1. At these temperatures and concentrations, rates of glaciation can be under-predicted by as much as an order of magnitude by equivalent density spheres. Habit prediction is less important for the maintenance of liquid at lower ice concentrations (<0.1 L-1) as the time-scale for liquid depletion is relatively long (days). At higher concentrations (>100 L -1) the time-scale for liquid depletion is shorter (minutes), thus predicting crystal habit has only a small impact on liquid lifetime. Updraft strength also affects mixed-phase cloud maintenance primarily at ice concentrations between 1 L-1 and 100 L-1. It is theoretically possible for vertical oscillating motions to maintain stratiform mixed-phase clouds indefinitely when temperatures are relatively high (> -10C) and ice concentrations are relatively low (<0.1 L-1).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberD21309
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Issue number21
StatePublished - 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


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