Articles | Volume 10, issue 8
Research article
23 Aug 2017
Research article |  | 23 Aug 2017

A statistical comparison of cirrus particle size distributions measured using the 2-D stereo probe during the TC4, SPARTICUS, and MACPEX flight campaigns with historical cirrus datasets

M. Christian Schwartz

Abstract. This paper addresses two straightforward questions. First, how similar are the statistics of cirrus particle size distribution (PSD) datasets collected using the Two-Dimensional Stereo (2D-S) probe to cirrus PSD datasets collected using older Particle Measuring Systems (PMS) 2-D Cloud (2DC) and 2-D Precipitation (2DP) probes? Second, how similar are the datasets when shatter-correcting post-processing is applied to the 2DC datasets? To answer these questions, a database of measured and parameterized cirrus PSDs – constructed from measurements taken during the Small Particles in Cirrus (SPARTICUS); Mid-latitude Airborne Cirrus Properties Experiment (MACPEX); and Tropical Composition, Cloud, and Climate Coupling (TC4) flight campaigns – is used.

Bulk cloud quantities are computed from the 2D-S database in three ways: first, directly from the 2D-S data; second, by applying the 2D-S data to ice PSD parameterizations developed using sets of cirrus measurements collected using the older PMS probes; and third, by applying the 2D-S data to a similar parameterization developed using the 2D-S data themselves. This is done so that measurements of the same cloud volumes by parameterized versions of the 2DC and 2D-S can be compared with one another. It is thereby seen – given the same cloud field and given the same assumptions concerning ice crystal cross-sectional area, density, and radar cross section – that the parameterized 2D-S and the parameterized 2DC predict similar distributions of inferred shortwave extinction coefficient, ice water content, and 94 GHz radar reflectivity. However, the parameterization of the 2DC based on uncorrected data predicts a statistically significantly higher number of total ice crystals and a larger ratio of small ice crystals to large ice crystals than does the parameterized 2D-S. The 2DC parameterization based on shatter-corrected data also predicts statistically different numbers of ice crystals than does the parameterized 2D-S, but the comparison between the two is nevertheless more favorable. It is concluded that the older datasets continue to be useful for scientific purposes, with certain caveats, and that continuing field investigations of cirrus with more modern probes is desirable.

Short summary
Measurements of ice cloud particle populations are needed to improve climate and weather prediction. This paper makes a comparison between ice cloud particle populations measured using two different airborne cloud particle probes. It is concluded that measurements of particle populations from older probes are similar to those from newer probes, except in total numbers of particles counted. Therefore, more airborne studies of ice clouds need to be made using newer cloud particle probes.