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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 3733-3752, 2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research Article
24 Apr 2012
On the ice nucleation spectrum
D. Barahona
Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, USA
I.M. Systems Group Inc., Rockville, Maryland, USA

Abstract. This work presents a novel formulation of the ice nucleation spectrum, i.e. the function relating the ice crystal concentration to cloud formation conditions and aerosol properties. The new formulation is physically-based and explicitly accounts for the dependency of the ice crystal concentration on temperature, supersaturation, cooling rate, and particle size, surface area and composition. This is achieved by introducing the concepts of ice nucleation coefficient (the number of ice germs present in a particle) and nucleation probability dispersion function (the distribution of ice nucleation coefficients within the aerosol population). The new formulation is used to generate ice nucleation parameterizations for the homogeneous freezing of cloud droplets and the heterogeneous deposition ice nucleation on dust and soot ice nuclei. For homogeneous freezing, it was found that by increasing the dispersion in the droplet volume distribution the fraction of supercooled droplets in the population increases. For heterogeneous ice nucleation the new formulation consistently describes singular and stochastic behavior within a single framework. Using a fundamentally stochastic approach, both cooling rate independence and constancy of the ice nucleation fraction over time, features typically associated with singular behavior, were reproduced. Analysis of the temporal dependency of the ice nucleation spectrum suggested that experimental methods that measure the ice nucleation fraction over few seconds would tend to underestimate the ice nuclei concentration. It is shown that inferring the aerosol heterogeneous ice nucleation properties from measurements of the onset supersaturation and temperature may carry significant error as the variability in ice nucleation properties within the aerosol population is not accounted for. This work provides a simple and rigorous ice nucleation framework where theoretical predictions, laboratory measurements and field campaign data can be reconciled, and that is suitable for application in atmospheric modeling studies.

Citation: Barahona, D.: On the ice nucleation spectrum, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 3733-3752, doi:10.5194/acp-12-3733-2012, 2012.
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