Captured cirrus ice particles in high definition.

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From: Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics(Vol. 21, Issue 9)
Publisher: Copernicus GmbH
Document Type: Brief article
Length: 274 words

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Abstract :

Cirrus clouds composed of small ice crystals are often the first solid matter encountered by sunlight as it streams into Earth's atmosphere. A broad array of recent research has emphasized that photon particle scattering calculations are very sensitive to ice particle morphology, complexity, and surface roughness. Uncertain variations in these parameters have major implications for successfully parameterizing the radiative ramifications of cirrus clouds in climate models. To date, characterization of the microscale details of cirrus particle morphology has been limited by the particles' inaccessibility and technical difficulty in capturing imagery with sufficient resolution. Results from a new experimental system achieve much higher-resolution images of cirrus ice particles than existing airborne-particle imaging systems. The novel system (Ice Cryo-Encapsulation by Balloon, ICE-Ball) employs a balloon-borne payload with environmental sensors and hermetically sealed cryo-encapsulation cells. The payload captures ice particles from cirrus clouds, seals them, and returns them via parachute for vapor-locked transfer onto a cryo-scanning electron microscopy stage (cryo-SEM). From 2015-2019, the ICE-Ball system has successfully yielded high-resolution particle images on nine cirrus-penetrating flights. On several flights, including one highlighted here in detail, thousands of cirrus particles were retrieved and imaged, revealing unanticipated particle morphologies, extensive habit heterogeneity, multiple scales of mesoscopic roughening, a wide array of embedded aerosol particles, and even greater complexity than expected.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A661458747