1Laboratoire Atmosphères, Milieux, Observations Spatiales-IPSL, UMR8190, CNRS/INSU, UVSQ-UPMC, UniverSud Paris, Guyancourt, France
2Istituto di Scienze dell'Atmosfera e del Clima, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Roma, Italy
Abstract. A methodology to identify and characterize cirrus clouds has been developed and applied to the multichannel-multiwavelength Rayleigh–Mie–Raman (RMR) lidar in Rome-Tor Vergata (RTV). A set of 167 cirrus cases, defined on the basis of quasi-stationary temporal period conditions, has been selected in a dataset consisting of about 500 h of nighttime lidar sessions acquired between February 2007 and April 2010. The derived lidar parameters (effective height, geometrical and optical thickness and mean back-scattering ratio) and the cirrus mid-height temperature (estimated from the radiosoundings of Pratica di Mare, WMO site #16245) of this sample have been analyzed by the means of a clustering multivariate analysis. This approach identified four cirrus classes above the RTV site: two thin cirrus clusters in mid and upper troposphere and two thick cirrus clusters in mid-upper troposphere. These results, which are very similar to those derived through the same approach in the lidar site of the Observatoire of Haute Provence (OHP), allows characterizing cirrus clouds over RTV site and attests the robustness of such classification.
To have some indications about the cirrus generation methods for the different classes, the analyses of the extinction-to-backscatter ratio (lidar ratio, LReff), in terms of the frequency distribution functions and depending on the mid-height cirrus temperature have been performed. This study suggests that smaller (larger) ice crystals compose thin (thick) cirrus classes. This information, together with the value of relative humidity over ice (110 ± 30%), calculated through the simultaneous WV Raman measurements for the mid-tropospheric thin class, indicates that this class could be formed by an heterogeneous nucleation mechanism.
The RTV cirrus results, re-computed through the cirrus classification by Sassen and Cho (1992), shows good agreement to other mid-latitude lidar cirrus observation for the relative occurrence of subvisible (SVC), thin and opaque cirrus classes (10%, 49% and 41%, respectively). The overall mean value of cirrus optical depth is 0.37 ± 0.18 , while most retrieved LReff values ranges between 10–60 sr and the estimated mean value is 31 ± 15 sr, similar to LR values of lower latitude cirrus measurements.
The obtained results are consistent with previous studies conducted with different systems and confirm that cirrus classification based on a statistical approach seems to be a good tool both to validate the height-resolved cirrus fields, calculated by models, and to investigate the key processes governing cirrus formation and evolution. These are fundamental elements to improve the characterization of the cirrus optical properties and, thus, the determination of their radiative impact.