In situ measurements of ice crystal size distributions in tropical upper troposphere/lower stratosphere (UT/LS) clouds were performed during the SCOUT-AMMA campaign over West Africa in August 2006. The cloud properties were measured with a Forward Scattering Spectrometer Probe (FSSP-100) and a Cloud Imaging Probe (CIP) operated aboard the Russian high altitude research aircraft M-55 Geophysica with the mission base in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. A total of 117 ice particle size distributions were obtained from the measurements in the vicinity of Mesoscale Convective Systems (MCS). Two to four modal lognormal size distributions were fitted to the average size distributions for different potential temperature bins. The measurements showed proportionately more large ice particles compared to former measurements above maritime regions. With the help of trace gas measurements of NO, NOy, CO2, CO, and O3 and satellite images, clouds in young and aged MCS outflow were identified. These events were observed at altitudes of 11.0 km to 14.2 km corresponding to potential temperature levels of 346 K to 356 K. In a young outflow from a developing MCS ice crystal number concentrations of up to (8.3 ± 1.6) cm−3 and rimed ice particles with maximum dimensions exceeding 1.5 mm were found. A maximum ice water content of 0.05 g m−3 was observed and an effective radius of about 90 μm. In contrast the aged outflow events were more diluted and showed a maximum number concentration of 0.03 cm−3, an ice water content of 2.3 × 10−4 g m−3, an effective radius of about 18 μm, while the largest particles had a maximum dimension of 61 μm.
Close to the tropopause subvisual cirrus were encountered four times at altitudes of 15 km to 16.4 km. The mean ice particle number concentration of these encounters was 0.01 cm−3 with maximum particle sizes of 130 μm, and the mean ice water content was about 1.4 × 10−4 g m−3. All known in situ measurements of subvisual tropopause cirrus are compared and an exponential fit on the size distributions is established for modelling purposes.
A comparison of aerosol to ice crystal number concentrations, in order to obtain an estimate on how many ice particles may result from activation of the present aerosol, yielded low ratios for the subvisual cirrus cases of roughly one cloud particle per 30 000 aerosol particles, while for the MCS outflow cases this resulted in a high ratio of one cloud particle per 300 aerosol particles.