Articles | Volume 7, issue 9
Research article
17 Sep 2014
Research article |  | 17 Sep 2014

A comparison of ice water content measurement techniques on the FAAM BAe-146 aircraft

S. J. Abel, R. J. Cotton, P. A. Barrett, and A. K. Vance

Abstract. This paper presents a comparison of ice water content (qi) data from a variety of measurement techniques on the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM) BAe-146 research aircraft. Data are presented from a range of cloud types measured during the PIKNMIX field experiment that include mixed-phase stratocumulus, cumulus congestus and cirrus clouds. These measurements cover a broad range of conditions in which atmospheric ice particles are found in nature, such as the low-ice-water-content environments typically found in midlatitude cirrus and the environments with much higher ice water content often observed in cold convective clouds. The techniques include bulk measurements from (i) a Nevzorov hot-wire probe, (ii) the difference between the measured total water content (condensed plus vapour) and the water vapour content of the atmosphere and (iii) a counterflow virtual impactor (CVI) (only for cirrus measurements). We also estimate the qi from integration of the measured particle size distribution (PSD) with assumptions on how the density of ice particles varies as a function of size.

The results show that the only bulk ice water content technique capable of measuring high qi values (several g m−3) was the method of total water content minus water vapour. For low ice water contents we develop a new parametrisation of the Nevzorov baseline drift that enables the probe to be sensitive to qi ± 0.002 g m−3. In cirrus clouds the agreement between the Nevzorov and other bulk measurements was typically better than a factor of 2 for the CVI (qi > 0.008 g m−3) and the method of total water content minus water vapour (qi > 0.02 g m−3). Good agreement with the bulk measurements for all cases could be obtained with the estimate from the PSD provided that appropriate a priori assumptions on the mass–dimension relationship were made. This is problematic in the convective clouds sampled because pristine ice particles, heavily rimed particles and supercooled liquid drops were all present. In a cirrus case, we show that using a temperature-dependent mass–dimension relation was required to match the bulk measurement of qi.