Antarctic Cloud Physics: Fundamental Observations from Ross Island
Antarctic clouds constitute an important parameter of the surface radiation budget and thus play a significant role in Antarctic climate and climate change. The variability in, and long term trends of, cloud optical and microphysical properties are therefore fundamental in parameterizing the mixed phase (water-snow-ice) coastal Antarctic stratiform clouds experienced around the continent.
Using a spectoradiometer that covers the wavelength range of 350 to 2200nm, the downwelled spectral irradiance at the earth surface (Ross Island) will be used to retrieve the optical depth, thermodynamic phase, liquid water droplet effective radius, and ice-cloud effective particle size of overhead clouds, at hourly intervals and for an austral summer season (Oct-March). Based on the very limited data sets that exist for the maritime Antarctic, expectations are that Ross Island (Lat 78 S) should exhibit clouds with:
a) An abundance of supercooled liquid water, and related mixed-phase cloud processes
b) Cloud nucleation from year round biogenic and oceanic sources, in an otherwise pristine environment
c) Simple cloud geometries of predominantly stratiform cloud decks
Increased understanding of the cloud properties in the region of the main USAP base, McMurdo station is also relevant to operational weather forecasting relevant to aviation. A range of educational and outreach activities are associate with the project, including provision of workshops for high school teachers will be carried out.
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