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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
12 Dec 2016
Review status
This discussion paper has been under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP). The revised manuscript was not accepted.
Widespread persistent polar stratospheric ice clouds in the Arctic
Christiane Voigt1,2, Andreas Dörnbrack1, Martin Wirth1, Silke M. Groß1, Robert Baumann1, Benedikt Ehard1, Michael C. Pitts3, Lamont R. Poole4, Björn-Martin Sinnhuber5, and Hermann Oelhaf5 1Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Oberpfaffenhofen, 82234, Germany
2Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Johannes Gutenberg-University, Mainz, 55881, Germany
3NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, 23681, USA
4Science Systems and Applications, Incorporated, Hampton, VA, 23681, USA
5Institute for Meteorology and Climate Research, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, 76344, Germany
Abstract. Despite a general decline in ozone depleting substances in the stratosphere due to the multi-national commitment to substantially reduce the emissions of their precursors, the magnitude of Arctic polar ozone loss has not decreased in recent years. Thus new observations at cold conditions can help to enhance our knowledge of polar stratospheric cloud (PSC) formation and life cycle which is of relevance for Arctic ozone loss. In the unique winter 2015/16, cold and persistent areas with temperatures below the ice frost point Tice developed in the Arctic stratosphere, caused by reduced perturbations of the polar vortex through planetary waves. Due to these extreme conditions, unprecedented and widespread ice PSCs formed and persisted for more than a month in the Arctic. These ice PSCs were repeatedly detected by lidars on the CALIPSO satellite and on the high altitude long range research aircraft HALO. A new lower threshold of the backscatter ratio−1 of 0.3 for ice PSCs derived from high-resolution lidar measurements at 532 nm wavelength leads to enhanced ice PSC coverage compared to previous analysis. The ice PSCs were generally surrounded by nitric acid trihydrate (NAT) and supercooled ternary solution (STS) clouds. By combining optical PSC data and trajectory analysis, we investigate ice formation pathways. In addition to ice nucleation in STSm with meteoric dust, we find that ice nucleation on pre-existing NAT may play an important role in polar winter. Persistent synoptic-scale Arctic ice PSCs have not been observed so far. Hence, ice PSCs are a sensitive marker for cold stratospheric winter temperatures modulated by natural variability and climate change.

Citation: Voigt, C., Dörnbrack, A., Wirth, M., Groß, S. M., Baumann, R., Ehard, B., Pitts, M. C., Poole, L. R., Sinnhuber, B.-M., and Oelhaf, H.: Widespread persistent polar stratospheric ice clouds in the Arctic, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss.,, 2016.
Christiane Voigt et al.
Christiane Voigt et al.


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Short summary
The letter describes unprecedented observations of widespread and persistent polar stratospheric ice clouds (ice PSCs) in the exceptionally cold Arctic stratospheric winter 2015/16. The unique observations are of global relevance because trends in Arctic ozone loss and in polar temperatures are highly uncertain. The new observations at cold conditions serve to enhance our knowledge on ice PSC formation, Arctic ozone loss and polar stratrospheric temperatures in a changing climate.
The letter describes unprecedented observations of widespread and persistent polar stratospheric...