National Science Foundation grants AGS-145147 and AGS-1632913 as well as US Army Corps of Engineers grant W912HZ-15-2-0019 provided funding for this work.
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Ice nuclei -- Effect on precipitation (Meteorology), Winter storms -- Northern California, Atmospheric aerosols
Ice-nucleating particles (INPs) have been found to influence the amount, phase and efficiency of precipitation from winter storms, including atmospheric rivers. Warm INPs, those that initiate freezing at temperatures warmer than −10ºC, are thought to be particularly impactful because they can create primary ice in mixed-phase clouds, enhancing precipitation efficiency. The dominant sources of warm INPs during atmospheric rivers, the role of meteorology in modulating transport and injection of warm INPs into atmospheric river clouds, and the impact of warm INPs on mixed-phase cloud properties are not well-understood. In this case study, time-resolved precipitation samples were collected during an atmospheric river in northern California, USA, during winter 2016. Precipitation samples were collected at two sites, one coastal and one inland, which are separated by about 35 km. The sites are sufficiently close that air mass sources during this storm were almost identical, but the inland site was exposed to terrestrial sources of warm INPs while the coastal site was not. Warm INPs were more numerous in precipitation at the inland site by an order of magnitude. Using FLEXPART (FLEXible PARTicle dispersion model) dispersion modeling and radar-derived cloud vertical structure, we detected influence from terrestrial INP sources at the inland site but did not find clear evidence of marine warm INPs at either site. We episodically detected warm INPs from long-range-transported sources at both sites. By extending the FLEXPART modeling using a meteorological reanalysis, we demonstrate that long-range-transported warm INPs were observed only when the upper tropospheric jet provided transport to cloud tops. Using radar-derived hydrometeor classifications, we demonstrate that hydrometeors over the terrestrially influenced inland site were more likely to be in the ice phase for cloud temperatures between 0 and −10°C. We thus conclude that terrestrial and long-range-transported aerosol were important sources of warm INPs during this atmospheric river. Meteorological details such as transport mechanism and cloud structure were important in determining (i) warm INP source and injection temperature and (ii) ultimately the impact of warm INPs on mixed-phase cloud properties.
Martin, A. C., Cornwell, G., Beall, C. M., Cannon, F., Reilly, S., Schaap, B., ... & Prather, K. (2019). Contrasting local and long-range-transported warm ice-nucleating particles during an atmospheric river in coastal California, USA. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 19(7), 4193-4210.