Supercooled liquid fogs over the central Greenland Ice Sheet

Cox, Christopher J.; Noone, David C.; Berkelhammer, Max; Shupe, Matthew D.; Neff, William D.; Miller, Nathaniel B.; Walden, Von P.; Steffen, Konrad

Radiation fogs at Summit Station, Greenland (72.58∘ N, 38.48∘ W; 3210 m a.s.l.), are frequently reported by observers. The fogs are often accompanied by fogbows, indicating the particles are composed of liquid; and because of the low temperatures at Summit, this liquid is supercooled. Here we analyze the formation of these fogs as well as their physical and radiative properties. In situ observations of particle size and droplet number concentration were made using scattering spectrometers near 2 and 10 m height from 2012 to 2014. These data are complemented by colocated observations of meteorology, turbulent and radiative fluxes, and remote sensing. We find that liquid fogs occur in all seasons with the highest frequency in September and a minimum in April. Due to the characteristics of the boundary-layer meteorology, the fogs are elevated, forming between 2 and 10 m, and the particles then fall toward the surface. The diameter of mature particles is typically 20–25 µm in summer. Number concentrations are higher at warmer temperatures and, thus, higher in summer compared to winter. The fogs form at temperatures as warm as −5 ∘C, while the coldest form at temperatures approaching −40 ∘C. Facilitated by the elevated condensation, in winter two-thirds of fogs occurred within a relatively warm layer above the surface when the near-surface air was below −40 ∘C, as cold as −57 ∘C, which is too cold to support liquid water. This implies that fog particles settling through this layer of cold air freeze in the air column before contacting the surface, thereby accumulating at the surface as ice without riming. Liquid fogs observed under otherwise clear skies annually imparted 1.5 W m−2 of cloud radiative forcing (CRF). While this is a small contribution to the surface radiation climatology, individual events are influential. The mean CRF during liquid fog events was 26 W m−2, and was sometimes much higher. An extreme case study was observed to radiatively force 5 ∘C of surface warming during the coldest part of the day, effectively damping the diurnal cycle. At lower elevations of the ice sheet where melting is more common, such damping could signal a role for fogs in preconditioning the surface for melting later in the day.

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Cox, Christopher J. / Noone, David C. / Berkelhammer, Max / et al: Supercooled liquid fogs over the central Greenland Ice Sheet. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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