High Supersaturation in the Wake of Falling Hydrometeors: Implications for Cloud Invigoration and Ice Nucleation

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Department of Physics


Aerosol particles, cloud droplets, and ice crystals, coupled through the supersaturation field, play an important role in the buoyancy and life cycle of convective clouds. This letter reports laboratory observations of copious cloud droplets and ice crystals formed in the wake of a warm, falling water drop, which is a laboratory surrogate for a relatively warm hydrometeor in atmospheric clouds, such as a graupel particle in the wet growth regime. Aerosols were activated in the regions of very high supersaturation due to mixing in the wake. A mechanism is explored for attaining very high supersaturations capable of activating significant fractions of the interstitial aerosols within the lifetime of a convective cloud. The latent heat released from the activation of interstitial aerosols and subsequent growth may provide an additional source of buoyancy for cloud invigoration and may lead to larger concentrations of ice crystals.

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©2020. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. Publisher’s version of record: https://doi.org/10.1029/2020GL088055

Publication Title

Geophysical Research Letters