Snow microphysical observations in shallow mixed-phase and deep frontal Arctic cloud systems

H. Morrison, P. Zuidema, G. M. Mcfarquhar, A. Bansemer, A. J. Heymsfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Snow particle size distributions (particle size >400 μm) in the western Arctic measured with in situ aircraft instrumentation during the Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic/First ISCCP Regional Experiment - Arctic Clouds Experiment and Mixed-Phase Arctic Cloud Experiment are analysed. Three cases of shallow, precipitating mixed-phase boundary-layer clouds and two cases of deep, precipitating frontal clouds are examined. Overall, the shallow cases had much lower values of particle concentration and ice water content than the deep cases, indicating large differences in ice initiation and growth between these regimes. Within a given case for both the shallow and deep frontal systems, and for the dataset as a whole, crystal concentration had little correlation with temperature (height), despite an active aggregation process that was indicated by large aggregates (>5 mm) observed in four out of the five cases. Exponential size distributions are fitted to the observations, allowing a direct comparison with the snow particle size distributions that are represented with exponential functions in many bulk microphysics schemes used in weather and climate models. Values of the fitted intercept parameter N0 are generally 2-10 times smaller for the shallow compared to the deep frontal cases as a result of differences in crystal concentration between these regimes. Values of N0 ∼ 107 m-4 specified for snow in many bulk microphysics schemes are broadly consistent with fitted N0 for the deep cases but larger than values for the shallow cases. The deep frontal cases also exhibit a relationship between N0 and temperature consistent with previous observations of midlatitude frontal systems. However, there are no consistent differences in N0 between the shallow and deep cases when partitioned by ice water content. Fitted values of slope parameter λ for the shallow and deep cases are generally consistent with previous studies of lower-latitude cloud systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1589-1601
Number of pages13
JournalQuarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society
Issue number659
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Microphysics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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