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Department of Physics


The reason why ice nucleation is more efficient by contact nucleation than by immersion nucleation has been elusive for over half a century. Six proposed mechanisms are summarized in this study. Among them, the pressure perturbation hypothesis, which arose from recent experiments, can qualitatively explain nearly all existing results relevant to contact nucleation. To explore the plausibility of this hypothesis in a more quantitative fashion and to guide future investigations, this study assessed the magnitude of pressure perturbation needed to cause contact nucleation and the associated spatial scales. The pressure perturbations needed were estimated using measured contact nucleation efficiencies for illite and kaolinite, obtained from previous experiments, and immersion freezing temperatures, obtained from well-established parameterizations. Pressure perturbations were obtained by assuming a constant pressure perturbation or a Gaussian distribution of the pressure perturbation. The magnitudes of the pressure perturbations needed were found to be physically reasonable, being achievable through possible mechanisms, including bubble formation and breakup, Laplace pressure arising from the distorted contact line, and shear. The pressure perturbation hypothesis provides a physically based and experimentally constrainable foundation for parameterizing contact nucleation that may be useful in future cloud-resolving models.

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© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( Publisher’s version of record:

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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