Altocumulus in transition; water to ice

I was thinking how great yesterday was for you.  Started out with a spectacular sunrise (lasted just a couple of minutes), and then you could watch for pretty much the WHOLE day, orographically-formed Altocumulus opacus and castellanus transition to ice crystal clouds (in this case, Altostratus with virga and some mammatus) right before your eyes!


7:16 AM. Flecks of Altocumulus clouds below Altostratus.

After sunrise….this odd scene below of an extended Altocu lenticular cloud:

7:33 AM.
12:24 PM. Altocumulus opacius shedding ice as they moved westward across Oro Valley.
3:01 PM. Altocumulus castellanus forming just upwind of the Catalinas, moving toward the west (to the left in this photo). No ice is falling out yet, though tiny ice crystals are likely starting to form.
3:01 PM. Looking farther downstream from the prior photo. Some ice is beginning to show up and fall out (center and left side of photo).
3:02 PM. Looking still farther downwind, those Altocumulus clouds are mostly glaciated, that is, mostly consist of ice. This transition has taken about 10 minutes of travel downwind. The sounding near this time, indicated that tops a little downwind of the U of AZ campus release site, were about -27°C (-17°F). However, tops were likely rising some small amount in this region downwind of the Catalinas, and so were almost surely, even a little colder than that.
4:33 PM. Nice example of what some of the Altocumulus castellanus looked like yesterday. That tallest turret will fall back. Its partner is just to the right, one that was previously as high, but fell back, its load of ice crystals drifing down. Some of the ice in the taller one is still being held up there until it, too, collapses. A error in aircraft sampling can occur if you don’t realize that tops have collapsed from lower temperatures, such as when collecting ice concentrations in the collapses one. You could easily assign a cloud top temperature that was too high; would not reflect the temperature at which they really formed.

More “pretties” below; yesterday’s sunset:

The afternoon sounding from the U of AZ campus.

The End

By Art Rangno

Retiree from a group specializing in airborne measurements of clouds and aerosols at the University of Washington (Cloud and Aerosol Research Group). The projects in which I participated were in many countries; from the Arctic to Brazil, from the Marshall Islands to South Africa.