Polarized view of supercooled liquid water clouds

Alexandrov, M. D., B. Cairns, B. van Diedenhoven, A. S. Ackerman, A. Wasilewski, M. McGill, J. Yorks, D. Hlavka, S. Platnick, and G. T. Arnold (2016), Polarized view of supercooled liquid water clouds, Remote Sensing of Environment, 181, 96-110, doi:10.1016/j.rse.2016.04.002.

Supercooled liquid water (SLW) clouds, where liquid droplets exist at temperatures below 0°C present a wellknown aviation hazard through aircraft icing, in which SLW accretes on the airframe. SLW clouds are common over the Southern Ocean, and climate-induced changes in their occurrence is thought to constitute a strong cloud feedback on global climate. The two recent NASA field campaigns POlarimeter Definition EXperiment (PODEX, based in Palmdale, California, January–February 2013) and Studies of Emissions and Atmospheric Composition, Clouds and Climate Coupling by Regional Surveys (SEAC4RS, based in Houston, Texas in August– September 2013) provided a unique opportunity to observe SLW clouds from the high-altitude airborne platform of NASA's ER-2 aircraft. We present an analysis of measurements made by the Research Scanning Polarimeter (RSP) during these experiments accompanied by correlative retrievals from other sensors. The RSP measures both polarized and total reflectance in 9 spectral channels with wavelengths ranging from 410 to 2250 nm. It is a scanning sensor taking samples at 0.8° intervals within 60° from nadir in both forward and backward directions. This unique angular resolution allows for characterization of liquid water droplet size using the rainbow structure observed in the polarized reflectances in the scattering angle range between 135° and 165°. Simple parametric fitting algorithms applied to the polarized reflectance provide retrievals of the droplet effective radius and variance assuming a prescribed size distribution shape (gamma distribution). In addition to this, we use a non-parametric method, Rainbow Fourier Transform (RFT), which allows retrieval of the droplet size distribution without assuming a size distribution shape. We present an overview of the RSP campaign datasets available from the NASA GISS website, as well as two detailed examples of the retrievals. In these case studies we focus on cloud fields with spatial features varying between glaciated and liquid phases at altitudes as high as 10 km, which correspond to temperatures close to the homogeneous freezing temperature of pure water drops (about -35°C or colder). The multimodal droplet size distributions retrieved from RSP data in these cases are consistent with the multi-layer cloud structure observed by correlative Cloud Physics Lidar (CPL) measurements.

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Radiation Science Program (RSP)