Processes contributing to cloud dissipation and formation events on the North Slope of Alaska

Sedlar, Joseph; Igel, Adele; Telg, Hagen

Clear-sky periods across the high latitudes have profound impacts on the surface energy budget and lower atmospheric stratification; however an understanding of the atmospheric processes leading to low-level cloud dissipation and formation events is limited. A method to identify clear periods at Utqiaġvik (formerly Barrow), Alaska, during a 5-year period (2014–2018) is developed. A suite of remote sensing and in situ measurements from the high-latitude observatory are analyzed; we focus on comparing and contrasting atmospheric properties during low-level (below 2 inline-formulakm) cloud dissipation and formation events to understand the processes controlling clear-sky periods. Vertical profiles of lidar backscatter suggest that aerosol presence across the lower atmosphere is relatively invariant during the periods bookending clear conditions, which suggests that a sparsity of aerosol is not frequently a cause for cloud dissipation on the North Slope of Alaska. Further, meteorological analysis indicates two active processes ongoing that appear to support the formation of low clouds after a clear-sky period: namely, horizontal advection, which was dominant in winter and early spring, and quiescent air mass modification, which was dominant in the summer. During summer, the dominant mode of cloud formation is a low cloud or fog layer developing near the surface. This low cloud formation is driven largely by air mass modification under relatively quiescent synoptic conditions. Near-surface aerosol particles concentrations changed by a factor of 2 around summer formation events. Thermodynamic adjustment and increased aerosol presence under quiescent atmospheric conditions are hypothesized as important mechanisms for fog formation.

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Sedlar, Joseph / Igel, Adele / Telg, Hagen: Processes contributing to cloud dissipation and formation events on the North Slope of Alaska. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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