Understanding cryogenic frost point hygrometer measurements after contamination by mixed-phase clouds



Jorge, T., Brunamonti, S., Poltera, Y., Wienhold, F. G., Luo, B. P., Oelsner, P., Hanumanthu, S., Singh, B. B., Körner, S., Dirksen, R., Naja, M., Fadnavis, S., and Peter, T.



by Atmospheric Measurement Techniques (AMT) at 2021-01-14



Balloon-borne water vapour measurements in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere (UTLS) by means of frost point hygrometers provide important information on air chemistry and climate. However, the risk of contamination from sublimating hydrometeors collected by the intake tube may render these measurements unusable, particularly after crossing low clouds containing supercooled droplets. A large set of (sub)tropical measurements during the 2016–2017 StratoClim balloon campaigns at the southern slopes of the Himalayas allows us to perform an in-depth analysis of this type of contamination. We investigate the efficiency of wall contact and freezing of supercooled droplets in the intake tube and the subsequent sublimation in the UTLS using computational fluid dynamics (CFD). We find that the airflow can enter the intake tube with impact angles up to 60∘, owing to the pendulum motion of the payload. Supercooled droplets with radii > 70 µm, as they frequently occur in mid-tropospheric clouds, typically undergo contact freezing when entering the intake tube, whereas only about 50 % of droplets with 10 µm radius freeze, and droplets < 5 µm radius mostly avoid contact. According to CFD, sublimation of water from an icy intake can account for the occasionally observed unrealistically high water vapour mixing ratios (χH2O > 100 ppmv) in the stratosphere. Furthermore, we use CFD to differentiate between stratospheric water vapour contamination by an icy intake tube and contamination caused by outgassing from the balloon and payload, revealing that the latter starts playing a role only during ascent at high altitudes (p < 20 hPa).




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