Evolution of ice crystal regions on the microscale based on in situ observations

Minghui Diao, Mark Andrew Zondlo, Andrew J. Heymsfield, Stuart P. Beaton, David C. Rogers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Microphysical properties of cirrus clouds largely influence their atmospheric radiative forcing. However, uncertainties remain in simulating/parameterizing the evolution of ice crystals. These uncertainties require more analyses in the Lagrangian view, yet most in situ observations are in the Eulerian view. Here we demonstrate a new method to separate out five phases of ice crystal evolution, using the horizontal spatial relationships between ice supersaturated regions (ISSRs) and ice crystal regions (ICRs). Based on global in situ data sets, we show that the samples of clear-sky ISSRs, ice crystal formation/growth, and evaporation/sedimentation are ~20%, 10%, and 70% of the total ISSR + ICR samples, respectively. In addition, the variance of number-weighted mean diameter (Dc) becomes narrower during the evolution, while the distribution of ice crystal number density (Nc) becomes wider. The new method helps to understand the evolution of ICRs and ISSRs on the microscale by using in situ Eulerian observations. Key Points In-situ aircraft observations of cirrus ice crystal life cycle Cirrus ice crystals mainly in sublimation relative to growth, nucleation phases Simple method to convert aircraft observations to cloud life cycle

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3473-3478
Number of pages6
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 16 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


  • cirrus
  • cloud life cycle
  • cloud lifetime
  • ice crystal
  • ice supersaturation
  • nucleation


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