Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Atmospheric Sciences (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Physics

Advisor 1

Raymond A. Shaw

Committee Member 1

Alex B. Kostinski

Committee Member 2

Will H. Cantrell

Committee Member 3

Mikhail Ovchinnikov


Ice particles in atmospheric clouds play an important role in determining cloud lifetime, precipitation and radiation. It is therefore important to understand the whole life cycle of ice particles in the atmosphere, e.g., where they come from (nucleation), how they evolve (growth), and where they go (precipitation). Ice nucleation is the crucial step for ice formation, and in this study, we will mainly focus on ice nucleation in the lab and its effect on mixed-phase stratiform clouds.

In the first half of this study, we investigate the relevance of moving contact lines (i.e., the region where three or more phases meet) on the phenomenon of contact nucleation. High speed video is used to investigate heterogeneous ice nucleation in supercooled droplets resting on cold substrates under two different dynamic conditions: droplet electrowetting and droplet vibration. Results show that contact-line motion is not a sufficient condition to trigger ice nucleation, while locally curved contact lines that can result from contact-line motion are strongly related to ice nucleation. We propose that pressure perturbations due to locally curved contact lines can strongly enhance the ice nucleation rate, which gives another interpretation for the mechanism for contact nucleation. Corresponding theoretical results provide a quantitative connection between pressure perturbations and temperature, providing a useful tool for ice nucleation calculations in atmospheric models.

In this second half of the study, we build a minimalist model for long lifetime mixed-phase stratiform clouds based on stochastic ice nucleation. Our result shows that there is a non-linear relationship between ice water contact and ice number concentration in the mixed-phase cloud, as long as the volume ice nucleation rate is constant. This statistical property may help identify the source of ice nuclei in mixed-phase clouds. In addition, results from Lagrangian ice particle tracking in time dependent fields show that long lifetime ice particles exist in mixed-phase stratiform clouds. We find that small ice particle can be trapped in eddy-like structures. Whether ice particles grow or sublimate depends on the thermodynamic field in the trapping region. This dynamic-thermodynamic coupling effect on the lifetime of ice particles might explain the fast phase-partition change observed in the mixed phase cloud.