Trigonal ice crystals in Earth's atmosphere

AMS Citation:
Murray, B. J., C. G. Salzmann, A. J. Heymsfield, S. Dobbie, R. Neely, and C. J. Cox, 2015: Trigonal ice crystals in Earth's atmosphere. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 96, 1519-1531, doi:10.1175/BAMS-D-13-00128.1.
Date:2015-09-01
Resource Type:article
Title:Trigonal ice crystals in Earth's atmosphere
Abstract: We are all familiar with the hexagonal shape of snow and ice crystals, and it is well established that their sixfold symmetry is derived from the arrangement of water molecules in a hexagonal crystal structure. However, atmospheric ice crystals with only threefold rotational symmetry are often observed, which is inconsistent with the hexagonal crystal structure of ordinary ice. These crystals are found in a wide range of different cloud types ranging from upper-tropospheric cirrus to contrails and diamond dust and they form at temperatures ranging from about -84° to -5°C. Recent experimental studies of ice crystal structures have shown that ice under a wide range of atmospheric conditions does not always conform to the standard hexagonal crystal structure. Instead, sequences of the hexagonal structure can be interlaced with cubic sequences to create stacking-disordered ice. This degrades the symmetry of the crystal structure so that, instead of having a hexagonal structure, they have a trigonal structure with a corresponding threefold symmetry. Hence, this implies that atmospheric ice crystals with threefold symmetry are made of stacking-disordered ice. We conclude that the presence of trigonal crystals in the atmosphere is consistent with rare Parry arc halos and also show that they have distinct radiative properties compared with hexagonal ice.
Peer Review:Refereed
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OpenSky citable URL: ark:/85065/d7r49s1q
Publisher's Version: 10.1175/BAMS-D-13-00128.1
Author(s):
  • Benjamin Murray
  • Christoph Salzmann
  • Andrew Heymsfield - NCAR/UCAR
  • Steven Dobbie
  • Ryan Neely - NCAR/UCAR
  • Christopher Cox
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