1Laboratoire de Météorologie Physique, UMR6016, CNRS/Université Blaise Pascal, Clermont-Ferrand, France
2Laboratoire de Météorologie Physique, Institut Universitaire de Technologie d'Allier, Montluçon, France
3Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Institut für Physik der Atmosphäre, Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany
4Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research (CAWCR), Melbourne, Australia
5Laboratoire Atmosphères, Milieux, Observations Spatiales, UMR8190 CNRS/Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Guyancourt, France
6Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, currently Science Systems and Applications, Inc./NASA Langley Research Center, USA
Abstract. Two complementary case studies are conducted to analyse convective system properties in the region where strong cloud-top lidar backscatter anomalies are observed as reported by Platt et al. (2011). These anomalies were reported for the first time using in-situ microphysical measurements in an isolated continental convective cloud over Germany during the CIRCLE2 experiment (Gayet et al., 2012). In this case, quasi collocated in situ observations with CALIPSO, CloudSat and Meteosat-9/SEVIRI observations confirm that regions of backscatter anomalies represent the most active and dense convective cloud parts with likely the strongest core updrafts and unusual high values of the particle concentration, extinction and ice water content (IWC), with the occurrence of small ice crystal sizes. Similar spaceborne observations are then analyzed in a maritime mesoscale cloud system (MCS) on 20 June 2008 located off the Brazil coast between 0° and 3° N latitude. Near cloud-top backscatter anomalies are evidenced in a region which corresponds to the coldest temperatures with maximum cloud top altitudes derived from collocated CALIPSO/IIR and Meteosat-9/SEVIRI infrared brightness temperatures. The interpretation of CALIOP data highlights significant differences of microphysical properties from those observed in the continental isolated convective cloud. Indeed, SEVIRI retrievals in the visible confirm much smaller ice particles near-top of the isolated continental convective cloud, i.e. effective radius (Reff) ~15 μm against 22–27 μm in the whole MCS area. 94 GHz Cloud Profiling Radar observations from CloudSat are then used to describe the properties of the most active cloud regions at and below cloud top. The cloud ice water content and effective radius retrieved with the CloudSat 2B-IWC and DARDAR inversion techniques, show that at usual cruise altitudes of commercial aircraft (FL 350 or ~10 700 m level), high IWC (i.e. up to 2 to 4 g m−3) could be identified according to specific IWC-Z relationships. These values correspond to a maximum reflectivity factor of +18 dBZ (at 94 GHz). Near-top cloud properties also indicate signatures of microphysical characteristics according to the cloud-stage evolution as revealed by SEVIRI images to identify the development of new cells within the MCS cluster. It is argued that the availability of real time information of the km-scale cloud top IR brightness temperature decrease with respect to the cloud environment would help identify MCS cloud areas with potentially high ice water content and small particle sizes against which onboard meteorological radar may not be suitable to provide timely warning.