DOI: 10.1029/2023jd039205 ISSN:

Southern Ocean low cloud and precipitation phase observed during the Macquarie Island Cloud and Radiation Experiment (MICRE)

Emily Tansey, Roger Marchand, Simon P. Alexander, Andrew R. Klekociuk, Alain Protat
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Geophysics


Shallow cloud decks residing in or near the boundary layer cover a large fraction of the Southern Ocean (SO) and play a major role in determining the amount of shortwave radiation reflected back to space from this region. In this article, we examine the macrophysical characteristics and thermodynamic phase of low clouds (tops < 3 km) and precipitation using ground‐based ceilometer, depolarization lidar and vertically‐pointing W‐band radar measurements collected during the Macquarie Island Cloud and Radiation Experiment (MICRE) from April 2016‐March 2017. During MICRE, low clouds occurred ∼65% of the time on average (slightly more often in austral winter than summer). About 2/3 of low clouds were cold‐topped (temperatures ≤ 0°C). These were thicker and had higher bases on average than warm‐topped clouds. 83‐88% of cold‐topped low clouds were liquid phase at cloud base (depending on the season). The majority of low clouds had precipitation in the vertical range 150 to 250 meters below cloud base, a significant fraction of which did not reach the surface. Phase characterization is limited to the period between April 2016 and November 2016. Small‐particle (low‐radar‐reflectivity) precipitation (which dominates precipitation occurrence) was mostly liquid below‐cloud, while large‐particle precipitation (which dominates total accumulation) was predominantly mixed/ambiguous or ice phase. Approximately 40% of cold‐topped clouds had mixed/ambiguous or ice phase precipitation below (with predominantly liquid phase cloud droplets at cloud base). Below‐cloud precipitation with radar reflectivity factors below about ‐10 dBZ were predominantly liquid, while reflectivity factors above about 0 dBZ were predominantly ice.

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