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Aerosol concentration outweighs the aerosol type effect in Arctic clouds

Aerosol concentration outweighs the aerosol type effect in Arctic clouds

The effect of different aerosol types and aerosol loads on the thermodynamic phase of low-level Arctic clouds was quantified in a recent study.

Supercooled liquid layers were present in the majority of observed low‐level clouds (from 0.75 km up to 3.5 km) between −10 and −25 °C. Furthermore, ice formation is more common in the presence of dust or continental aerosols as opposed to marine or elevated smoke aerosols. With the first aerosol group, glaciated clouds were found at cloud top temperatures of 2 to 4 °C warmer than with the latter aerosol types.

Further association of the aerosol concentration with the cloud phase showed that the aerosol concentration outweighs the aerosol type effect. Depending on the aerosol load, the temperature at which a cloud completely glaciates can vary by up to 6–10 °C. However, this behavior was most pronounced in stable atmospheric conditions and absent over open ocean with lower tropospheric stability values and probably less stratified clouds.

Finally, more mixed‐phase clouds were associated with high aerosol load, suggesting that mixed‐phase clouds have an extended lifetime in the Arctic under high cloud condensation nuclei concentrations. This implies that in a pristine environment, with few or no local aerosol sources, and under the investigated conditions the amount of aerosol particles affects the cloud phase more than the aerosol type does.

Further information:

researcher Maria Filioglou, Finnish Meteorological Institute,

Filioglou, M., Mielonen, T., Balis, D., Giannakaki, E., Arola, A., Kokkola, H., et al. (2019). Aerosol effect on the cloud phase of low‐level clouds over the Arctic. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 124, 7886– 7899.

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