An investigation of the influence of droplet number concentration and giant aerosol particles upon supercooled large drop formation in wintertime stratiform clouds

Sonia Lasher-Trapp, Sarah Anderson-Berenznicki, Ashley Shackelford, Cynthia H. Twohy, James G. Hudson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Supercooled large drops (SLD) can be a significant hazard for aviation. Past studies have shown that warm-rain processes are prevalent, or even dominant, in stratiform clouds containing SLD, but the primary factors that control SLD production are still not well understood. Giant aerosol particles have been shown to accelerate the formation of the first drizzle drops in some clouds and thus are a viable source of SLD, but observational support for testing their effectiveness in supercooled stratiform clouds has been lacking. In this study, new observations collected during six research flights from the Alliance Icing Research Study II (AIRS II) are analyzed to assess the factors that may be relevant to SLD formation, with a particular emphasis on the importance of giant aerosol particles. An initial comparison of observed giant aerosol particle number concentrations with the observed SLD suggests that they were present in sufficient numbers to be the source of the SLD. However, microphysical calculations within an adiabatic parcel model, initialized with the observed aerosol distributions and cloud properties, suggest that the giant aerosol particles were only a limited source of SLD. More SLD was produced in the modeled clouds with low droplet concentrations, simply by an efficient warm-rain process acting at temperatures below 0°C. For cases in which the warm-rain process is limited by a higher droplet concentration and small cloud depth/liquid water content, the giant aerosol particles were then the only source of SLD. The modeling results are consistent with the observed trends in SLD across the six AIRS II cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2659-2678
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Dec 24 2008


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science

Cite this