Observations of cloud microphysics and ice formation during COPE

J. W. Taylor, Thomas Choularton, A. M. Blyth, Zixia Liu, Keith Bower, Jonathan Crosier, Martin Gallagher, Paul I Williams, James Dorsey, Michael Flynn, L. J. Bennett, Y. Huang, J. French, A. Korolev, P. R. A. Brown

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    We present microphysical observations of cumulus clouds measured over the southwest peninsula of the UK during the COnvective Precipitation Experiment (COPE) in August 2013, which are framed into a wider context using ground-based and airborne radar measurements. Two lines of cumulus clouds formed in the early afternoon along convergence lines aligned with the peninsula. The lines became longer and broader during the afternoon due to new cell formation and stratiform regions forming downwind of the convective cells. Ice concentrations up to 350gLg'1, well in excess of the expected ice nuclei (IN) concentrations, were measured in the mature stratiform regions, suggesting that secondary ice production was active.

    Detailed sampling focused on an isolated liquid cloud that glaciated as it matured to merge with a band of cloud downwind. In the initial cell, drizzle concentrations increased from g1/4 0.5 to g1/4 20gLg'1 in around 20 min. Ice concentrations developed up to a few per litre, which is around the level expected of primary IN. The ice images were most consistent with freezing drizzle, rather than smaller cloud drops or interstitial IN forming the first ice.

    As new cells emerged in and around the cloud, ice concentrations up to 2 orders of magnitude higher than the predicted IN concentrations developed, and the cloud glaciated over a period of 12–15 min. Almost all of the first ice particles to be observed were frozen drops, while vapour-grown ice crystals were dominant in the latter stages. Our observations are consistent with the production of large numbers of small secondary ice crystals/fragments, by a mechanism such as Hallett–Mossop or droplets shattering upon freezing. Some of the small ice froze drizzle drops on contact, while others grew more slowly by vapour deposition. Graupel and columns were seen in cloud penetrations up to the −12g°C level, though many ice particles were mixed habit due to riming and growth by vapour deposition at multiple temperatures.

    Our observations demonstrate that the freezing of drizzle/raindrops is an important process that dominates the formation of large ice in the intermediate stages of cloud development. As these frozen drops were the first precipitation observed, interactions between the warm-rain and secondary ice production processes appear to be key to determining the timing and location of precipitation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)799-826
    Number of pages28
    JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2016


    • cloud microphysics
    • ice multiplication


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