• Ice clouds over Fairbanks, Alaska

      Kayetha, Vinay Kumar; Sassen, Kenneth; Mölders, Nicole; Collins, Richard (2014-05)
      Arctic clouds have been recognized long ago as one of the key elements modulating the global climate system. They have gained much interest in recent years because the availability of new continuous datasets is opening doors to explore cloud and aerosol properties as never before. This is particularly important in the light of current climate change studies that predict changing weather scenarios around the world. This research investigates the occurrence and properties of a few types of ice clouds over the Arctic region with datasets available through the Arctic Facility for Atmospheric Remote Sensing (AFARS; 64.86° N, 147.84° W). This study exclusively focuses on ice clouds that form in the upper (cirrus clouds) and midlevels of the troposphere, and that are transparent to laser pulses (visible optical depth τ< 3.0 - 4.0). Cirrus clouds are icedominated clouds that are formed in the upper levels of the troposphere and are relatively thin such that their visual appearances range from bluish to gray in color. Mid-level ice clouds are those clouds primarily composed of ice crystals forming in the midlevels of the troposphere. It is hypothesized that unlike the basic midlevel cloud type (altostratus), other varieties of midlevel ice clouds exist at times over the Arctic region. The midlevel ice clouds studied here are also transparent to laser pulses and sometimes appear as a family of cirrus clouds to a surface observer. Because of their intermediate heights of occurrence in the troposphere, these could have microphysical properties and radiative effects that are distinct from those associated with upper level ice clouds in the troposphere. A ground-based lidar dataset with visual observations for identifying cloud types collected at AFARS over eight years is used to investigate this hypothesis. Cloud types over AFARS have been identified by a surface observer (Professor Kenneth Sassen) using established characteristics traits. Essential macrophysical properties of the clouds are derived from the lidar data, which serves as a climatological representation for the visually identified cirrus and mid-level ice clouds over a typical sub-Arctic location. Synoptic-scale weather patterns conducive for such cloud type formations are derived using a clustering technique applied to a re-analysis dataset. The cloud properties derived from ground-based lidar over AFARS are used to assess the cloud observations from the CALIPSO satellite.
    • Investigation of thin midlevel ice clouds in the Arctic using calipso data and radiative transfer modeling

      Kayetha, Vinay Kumar; Collins, Richard; Meyer, Franz; Prakash, Anupma; Bhatt, Uma (2015-08)
      In this research we investigate the global occurrence and properties of optically thin midlevel ice clouds. These clouds are difficult to detect with passive radiometric techniques and are under-represented in current studies. We use the Cloud Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) data set to identify thin midlevel ice clouds and determine their global occurrence and distribution. For the first time, we find that the global mean occurrence of these clouds is at least 4.5%, being at least 7.3% of all the tropospheric clouds detected at a horizontal scale of 10 km. Seasonally, these clouds are found most commonly in the polar regions. These clouds occur most commonly in the Arctic in winter and least commonly in the summer. In winter these clouds can occur up to 19% of the time. The occurrence of these clouds decreases with increasing spatial scale and are most commonly found at spatial scales of 25 km or less. We found five large distinct clouds over the Arctic and investigated them for their meteorological conditions and radiative effects. These thin midlevel ice clouds are formed along the frontal zones in weakly ascending air masses. Our model simulations show that thin midlevel ice clouds have a net warming effect on the surface of 23-48 W/m². We conclude that these clouds have a significant impact on the radiation budget in Arctic winters. Our study highlights the importance of active satellite-based remote sensing in globally detecting and characterizing optically thin clouds. Our estimates of occurrence and fraction of clouds represents a lower bound, as these clouds can be obscured by optically thicker clouds. The volume of measurements provided by the satellite allowed us to identify a small but consistent set of large clouds with which we could conduct a contemporary radiative analysis. These findings can be used to improve the representation of clouds and their impacts in regional and global climate models.