Scientist investigates the mystery of secondary ice production | 3/1/2019 | Staff
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Christine Chiu of Colorado State University investigates clouds. She calls them "complicated 3-D objects that evolve fast."

She studies clouds from below and on all sides with scanning cloud radars and from above with satellite data. Her research matters. Cloud properties are the prime determinants of the Earth's energy budget, yet are not represented well in current models.

Range - Earth - System - Predictions - Chiu

The disconcertingly wide range of present-day earth system predictions, Chiu says, "is partly a result of inaccurate cloud properties in climate models."

To improve models, it's necessary to better understand the physical processes and radiative effects of clouds and precipitation.

End - Chiu - Colleagues - Colorado - United

To that end, Chiu and colleagues in Colorado, the United Kingdom, and Finland began work in July 2018 on a three-year research project that addresses an enduring puzzle of cloud microphysics. Why does the observed concentration of ice particles in a cloud system often exceed, by several orders of magnitude, the nearby number of primary ice nuclei?

In sum, why does so much ice in clouds get made from so few apparent ingredients?

Scientists - Name - Enhancement - Ice - Particles

Scientists have a name for this unexpected enhancement of ice particles: secondary ice production, or SIP.

In the past 70 years, researchers have hypothesized many mechanisms that could explain SIP, as outlined in this 2017 review paper in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Mechanisms - Interest - Chiu - Project - Investigator

The three mechanisms of primary interest to Chiu, the project's principal investigator (PI), get a lot of attention in current discussions. But it is not clear which is the predominant one, or how SIP initiation and formation varies with cloud types.

Chiu and her team intend to confront these and other SIP process questions, and (importantly) to discover how these processes affect radiation and precipitation.

Research - Project—to - Assess - SIP - Clouds—is

Their research project—to assess SIP in continental clouds—is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Atmospheric System Research (ASR) program.

Chiu has been part of ASR research almost continuously...
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