Geophysical Research Letters

Glaciation temperatures of convective clouds ingesting desert dust, air pollution and smoke from forest fires



[1] Heavy aerosol loads have been observed to suppress warm rain by reducing cloud drop size and slowing drop coalescence. The ice forming nuclei (IFN) activity of the same aerosols glaciate the clouds and create ice precipitation instead of the suppressed warm rain. Satellite observations show that desert dust and heavy air pollution over East Asia have similar ability to glaciate the tops of growing convective clouds at glaciation temperature of Tg < ∼ −20°C, whereas similarly heavy smoke from forest fires in Siberia without dust or industrial pollution glaciated clouds at Tg ≤ −33°C. The observation that both smoke and air pollution have same effect on reducing cloud drop size implies that the difference in Tg is due to the IFN activity. This dependence of Tg on aerosol types appears only for clouds with re-5 < 12 μm (re-5 is the cloud drop effective radius at the −5°C isotherm, above which ice rarely forms in cloud tops). For the rest of the clouds the glaciation temperature increases strongly with re-5 with little relation to the aerosol types, reaching Tg> ∼ −15°C for the largest re-5, which are typical to marine clouds in pristine atmosphere.