Aircraft microphysical and surface-based radar observations of summertime arctic clouds

R. Paul Lawson, Paquita Zuidema

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Updated analyses of in situ microphysical properties of three Arctic cloud systems sampled by aircraft in July 1998 during the Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic Ocean (SHEBA)/First International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) Regional Experiment-Arctic Clouds Experiment (FIRE-ACE) are examined in detail and compared with surface-based millimeter Doppler radar. A fourth case is given a cursory examination. The clouds were at 788N over a melting ice surface, in distinctly different yet typical synoptic conditions. The cases comprise a midlevel all-ice cloud on 8 July; a deep, weakly forced, layered, mixed-phase stratus cloud system with pockets of drizzle, large dendrites, rimed ice and aggregates on 18 July; and a deep, mixed-phase cloud system with embedded convection on 28 July followed by an all-water boundary layer cloud on 29 July. The new observations include measured ice water content exceeding 2 g m23 on 18 and 28 July and 3-cm snowflakes and 5-mm graupel particles on 28 July, unexpected in clouds close to the North Pole. Radar-aircraft agreement in reflectivity and derived microphysical parameters was reasonably good for the all-water and all-ice cases. In contrast, agreement in radar-aircraft reflectivity and derived parameters was generally inconsistent and sometimes poor for the two mixed-phase cases. The inconsistent agreement in radar-aircraft retrievals may be a result of large uncertainties in both instrument platforms and the algorithms used to retrieve derived parameters. The data also suggest that (single-wavelength) radar alone may not be capable of accurately retrieving the microphysical effects of cloud drops and drizzle in mixed-phase clouds, especially radiative properties such as extinction, albedo, and optical depth. However, more research is required before this generalization can be considered conclusive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3505-3529
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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