Determining stages of cirrus evolution: a cloud classification scheme
- Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, Institut für Physik der Atmosphäre, Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany
Abstract. Cirrus clouds impose high uncertainties on climate prediction, as knowledge on important processes is still incomplete. For instance it remains unclear how cloud microphysical and radiative properties change as the cirrus evolves. Recent studies classify cirrus clouds into categories including in situ, orographic, convective and liquid origin clouds and investigate their specific impact. Following this line, we present a novel scheme for the classification of cirrus clouds that addresses the need to determine specific stages of cirrus evolution. Our classification scheme is based on airborne Differential Absorption and High Spectral Resolution Lidar measurements of atmospheric water vapor, aerosol depolarization, and backscatter, together with model temperature fields and simplified parameterizations of freezing onset conditions. It identifies regions of supersaturation with respect to ice (ice-supersaturated regions, ISSRs), heterogeneous and homogeneous nucleation, depositional growth, and ice sublimation and sedimentation with high spatial resolution. Thus, all relevant stages of cirrus evolution can be classified and characterized. In a case study of a gravity lee-wave-influenced cirrus cloud, encountered during the ML-CIRRUS flight campaign, the applicability of our classification is demonstrated. Revealing the structure of cirrus clouds, this valuable tool might help to examine the influence of evolution stages on the cloud's net radiative effect and to investigate the specific variability of optical and microphysical cloud properties in upcoming research.