Icy Plumes Transport Water Into Stratosphere

Sep 15, 2021 | Daily Space, Earth

Icy Plumes Transport Water Into Stratosphere
IMAGE: A 3D rendering of the simulation experiment that produces the AACP in the the sheltered side or lee of the overshooting top. CREDIT: Leigh Off, David Semeraro

The role of ice and water on our planet and in our atmosphere is something that we haven’t always paid enough attention to. For instance, in trying to identify where tornadoes will form, researchers are only just beginning to model how water moves through the atmosphere. 

In a new paper in Science, researchers led by Morgan O’Neill model how storms capable of generating tornadoes go beyond the usual anvil cloud structure of thunderstorms and form an above-anvil cirrus plume of ice and water vapor. 

According to the computer models, this plume can transport seven tonnes of water per second into the stratosphere! These plumes form thirty minutes or more prior to severe weather striking at ground level. While not readily observed, these plumes offer a potential method to identify where the worst weather associated with hurricanes and other massive storms may occur. 

This work is still in its early stages, but according to O’Neill: High-altitude NASA research aircraft have only recently gained the ability to observe the three-dimensional winds at the tops of thunderstorms… We have the technology now to go verify our modeling results and see if they’re realistic. That’s really a sweet spot for science.

More Information

Stanford press release

Hydraulic jump dynamics above supercell thunderstorms,” Morgan E O’Neill, Leigh Orf, Gerald M. Heymsfield, and Kelton Halbert, 2021 September 10, Science


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