A Lagrangian analysis of ice-supersaturated air over the North Atlantic
Irvine, E. A., Hoskins, B. J. and Shine, K. P. (2014) A Lagrangian analysis of ice-supersaturated air over the North Atlantic. Journal of Geophysical Research - Atmospheres, 119 (1). pp. 90-100. ISSN 0148-0227
To link to this article DOI: 10.1002/2013JD020251
Understanding the nature of air parcels that exhibit ice-supersaturation is important because they are the regions of potential formation of both cirrus and aircraft contrails, which affect the radiation balance. Ice-supersaturated air parcels in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere over the North Atlantic are investigated using Lagrangian trajectories. The trajectory calculations use ERA-Interim data for three winter and three summer seasons, resulting in approximately 200,000 trajectories with ice-supersaturation for each season. For both summer and winter, the median duration of ice-supersaturation along a trajectory is less than 6 hours. 5% of air which becomes ice-supersaturated in the troposphere, and 23% of air which becomes ice-supersaturated in the stratosphere will remain ice-supersaturated for at least 24 hours. Weighting the ice-supersaturation duration with the observed frequency indicates the likely overall importance of the longer duration ice-supersaturated trajectories. Ice-supersaturated air parcels typically experience a decrease in moisture content while ice-supersaturated, suggesting that cirrus clouds eventually form in the majority of such air. A comparison is made between short-lived (less than 24 h) and long-lived (greater than 24 h) ice-supersaturated air flows. For both air flows, ice-supersaturation occurs around the northernmost part of the trajectory. Short-lived ice-supersaturated air flows show no significant differences in speed or direction of movement to subsaturated air parcels. However, long-lived ice-supersaturated air occurs in slower moving air flows, which implies that they are not associated with the fastest moving air through a jet stream.