How frequent is natural cloud seeding from ice cloud layers ( < −35 °C) over Switzerland?
- Journal Article
Rights / licenseCreative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
Clouds and cloud feedbacks represent one of the largest uncertainties in climate projections. As the ice phase influences many key cloud properties and their lifetime, its formation needs to be better understood in order to improve climate and weather prediction models. Ice crystals sedimenting out of a cloud do not sublimate immediately but can survive certain distances and eventually fall into a cloud below. This natural cloud seeding can trigger glaciation and has been shown to enhance precipitation formation. However, to date, an estimate of its occurrence frequency is lacking. In this study, we estimate the occurrence frequency of natural cloud seeding over Switzerland from satellite data and sublimation calculations. We use the DARDAR (radar lidar) satellite product between April 2006 and October 2017 to estimate the occurrence frequency of multi-layer cloud situations, where a cirrus cloud at T < −35 ∘C can provide seeds to a lower-lying feeder cloud. These situations are found to occur in 31 % of the observations. Of these, 42 % have a cirrus cloud above another cloud, separated, while in 58 % the cirrus is part of a thicker cloud, with a potential for in-cloud seeding. Vertical distances between the cirrus and the lower-lying cloud are distributed uniformly between 100 m and 10 km. They are found to not vary with topography. Seasonally, winter nights have the most multi-layer cloud occurrences, in 38 % of the measurements. Additionally, in situ and liquid origin cirrus cloud size modes can be identified according to the ice crystal mean effective radius in the DARDAR data. Using sublimation calculations, we show that in a significant number of cases the seeding ice crystals do not sublimate before reaching the lower-lying feeder cloud. Depending on whether bullet rosette, plate-like or spherical crystals were assumed, 10 %, 11 % or 20 % of the crystals, respectively, could provide seeds after sedimenting 2 km. The high occurrence frequency of seeding situations and the survival of the ice crystals indicate that the seeder–feeder process and natural cloud seeding are widespread phenomena over Switzerland. This hints at a large potential for natural cloud seeding to influence cloud properties and thereby the Earth's radiative budget and water cycle, which should be studied globally. Further investigations of the magnitude of the seeding ice crystals' effect on lower-lying clouds are necessary to estimate the contribution of natural cloud seeding to precipitation. Show more
Journal / seriesAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Pages / Article No.
Organisational unit03690 - Lohmann, Ulrike / Lohmann, Ulrike
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