A fire-ACE/SHEBA case study of mixed-phase arctic boundary layer clouds: Entrainment rate limitations on rapid primary ice nucleation processes

Ann M. Fridlind, Bastiaan Van Diedenhoven, Andrew S. Ackerman, Alexander Avramov, Agnieszka Mrowiec, Hugh Morrison, Paquita Zuidema, Matthew D. Shupe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Observations of long-lived mixed-phase Arctic boundary layer clouds on 7 May 1998 during the First International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) Regional Experiment (FIRE)-Arctic Cloud Experiment (ACE)/Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic Ocean (SHEBA) campaign provide a unique opportunity to test understanding of cloud ice formation. Under the microphysically simple conditions observed (apparently negligible ice aggregation, sublimation, and multiplication), the only expected source of new ice crystals is activation of heterogeneous ice nuclei (IN) and the only sink is sedimentation. Large-eddy simulations with size-resolved microphysics are initialized with IN number concentration NIN measured above cloud top, but details of IN activation behavior are unknown. If activated rapidly (in deposition, condensation, or immersion modes), as commonly assumed, IN are depleted from the well-mixed boundary layer within minutes. Quasi-equilibrium ice number concentration Ni is then limited to a small fraction of overlying NIN that is determined by the cloud-top entrainment rate we divided by the number-weighted ice fall speed at the surface yf. Because wc < 1 cm s-1 and yf > 10 cm s-1, Ni/NIN«1. Such conditions may be common for this cloud type, which has implications for modeling IN diagnostically, interpreting measurements, and quantifying sensitivity to increasing NIN (when we/yf <1, entrainment rate limitations serve to buffer cloud system response). To reproduce observed ice crystal size distributions and cloud radar reflectivities with rapidly consumed IN in this case, the measured above-cloud NIN must be multiplied by approximately 30. However, results are sensitive to assumed ice crystal properties not constrained by measurements. In addition, simulations do not reproduce the pronounced mesoscale heterogeneity in radar reflectivity that is observed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-389
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Arctic
  • Cloud microphysics
  • Ice crystals
  • Ice loss/growth
  • Large eddy simulations
  • Stratiform clouds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


Dive into the research topics of 'A fire-ACE/SHEBA case study of mixed-phase arctic boundary layer clouds: Entrainment rate limitations on rapid primary ice nucleation processes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this