Spaceborne lidar observations of the ice-nucleating potential of dust, polluted dust, and smoke aerosols in mixed-phase clouds

Ivy Tan, Trude Storelvmo, Yong Sang Choi

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64 Scopus citations


Previous laboratory studies and in situ measurements have shown that dust particles possess the ability to nucleate ice crystals, and smoke particles to some extent as well. Even with coatings of pollutants such as sulphate and nitrate on the surface of dust particles, it has been shown that polluted dust particles are still able to nucleate ice in the immersion, deposition, condensation, and contact freezing modes, albeit less efficiently than unpolluted dust. The ability of these aerosols to act as ice nuclei in the Earth’s atmosphere has important implications for the Earth’s radiative budget and hence global climate change. Here we determine the relationship between cloud thermodynamic phase and dust, polluted dust, and smoke aerosols individually by analyzing their vertical profiles over a ∼5 year period obtained by NASA’s spaceborne lidar, Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization. We found that when comparing the effects of temperature and aerosols, temperature appears to have the dominant influence on supercooled liquid cloud fraction. Nonetheless, we found that aerosols still appear to exert a strong influence on supercooled liquid cloud fraction as suggested by the existence of negative temporal and spatial correlations between supercooled liquid cloud fraction and frequencies of dust aerosols from around the world, at the −10°C, −15°C, −20°C, and −25°C isotherms. Although smoke aerosol frequencies were also found to be negatively correlated with supercooled liquid cloud fraction, their correlations are weaker in comparison to those between dust frequencies and supercooled liquid cloud fraction. For the first time, we show this based on observations from space, which lends support to previous studies that dust and potentially smoke aerosols can globally alter supercooled liquid cloud fraction. Our results suggest that the ice-nucleating ability of these aerosols may have an indirect climatic impact that goes beyond the regional scale, by influencing cloud thermodynamic phase globally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6653-6665
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research C: Oceans
Issue number11
StatePublished - 16 Jun 2014

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© 2014. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.


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