• specular reflection


The properties of planar ice crystals settling horizontally have been investigated using a vertically pointing Doppler lidar. Strong specular reflections were observed from their oriented basal facets, identified by comparison with a second lidar pointing 4° from zenith. Analysis of 17 months of continuous high-resolution observations reveals that these pristine crystals are frequently observed in ice falling from mid-level mixed-phase layer clouds (85% of the time for layers at −15 °C). Detailed analysis of a case study indicates that the crystals are nucleated and grow rapidly within the supercooled layer, then fall out, forming well-defined layers of specular reflection. From the lidar alone the fraction of oriented crystals cannot be quantified, but polarimetric radar measurements confirmed that a substantial fraction of the crystal population was well oriented. As the crystals fall into subsaturated air, specular reflection is observed to switch off as the crystal faces become rounded and lose their faceted structure.

Specular reflection in ice falling from supercooled layers colder than −22 °C was also observed, but this was much less pronounced than at warmer temperatures: we suggest that in cold clouds it is the small droplets in the distribution that freeze into plates and produce specular reflection, whilst larger droplets freeze into complex polycrystals.

The lidar Doppler measurements show that typical fall speeds for the oriented crystals are ≈ 0.3 m s−1, with a weak temperature correlation; the corresponding Reynolds number is Re ∼ 10, in agreement with light-pillar measurements. Coincident Doppler radar observations show no correlation between the specular enhancement and the eddy dissipation rate, indicating that turbulence does not control crystal orientation in these clouds. Copyright © 2010 Royal Meteorological Society