Document Type


Publication Date

May 2015


Ice supersaturation (ISS) is the prerequisite condition for cirrus cloud formation. To examine multiscale dynamics' influences on ISS formation, we analyze in situ aircraft observations (~200 m scale) over North America in coordinates relative to dynamical boundaries in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere. Two case studies demonstrate that ISS formation is likely influenced by mesoscale uplifting, small-scale waves, and turbulence. A collective analysis of 15 flights in April–June 2008 shows that the top layers of ISS and ice crystal distributions are strongly associated with thermal tropopause height. In addition, the average occurrence frequencies of ISS and ice crystals on the anticyclonic side of the jet stream are ~1.5–2 times of those on the cyclonic side. By defining five cirrus evolution phases based on the spatial relationships between ice-supersaturated and in-cloud regions, we find that their peak occurrence frequencies are located at decreasing altitudes with respect to the thermal tropopause: (phase 1) clear-sky ISS around the tropopause, (phase 2) nucleation phase around 2 km below the tropopause, (phases 3 and 4) early and later growth phases around 6 km below the tropopause, and (phase 5) sedimentation/sublimation around 2–6 km below the tropopause. Consistent with this result, chemical tracer correlation analysis shows that the majority (~80%) of the earlier cirrus phases (clear-sky ISS and nucleation) occurs inside the chemical tropopause transition layer, while the later phases happen mostly below that layer. These results shed light on the role of dynamical environment in facilitating cirrus cloud formation and evolution.


This article, the Version of Record, originally appeared in Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres in Volume 120, Issue 10 and can be found at this link.