A project studying the influence of Saharan desert dust on clouds is currently taking place in Praia, on the island of Santiago, Cape Verde. The collaborative project called the Ice in Clouds Experiment - Dust (ICE-D) involves participants from NCAS, the Met Office and the Universities of Leeds, Manchester, Reading and Hertfordshire.

The FAAM research aircraft pictured with the NCAS X-band radar in Cape Verde.

The ICE-D science team are making detailed measurements of the clouds, the dust and the micro-physical processes that happen inside clouds. To do this the team measure aerosols, ice crystals and rain drops using a suite of different instrumentation including the FAAM aircraft and the NCAS X-band radar.

The FAAM research aircraft (pictured with the NCAS X-band radar) is making in-situ measurements of the dust aerosol and cloud properties. Extensive aerosol measurements are being made on the ground by the University of Manchester laboratory. The NCAS X-band radar is identifying suitable cloud regions for the aircraft to sample, observing their evolution and the development of precipitation.

The aim of ICE-D is to make detailed and coordinated measurements in clouds with varying concentrations of Saharan dust. The ultimate goal is to improve understanding of aerosol-cloud interactions and reduce the uncertainty in these processes in numerical models. Saharan dust is believed to be important in the formation of clouds, and its presence can modify how a cloud behaves. The dust is thought to act as an ice nuclei as well as cloud condensation nuclei.

The ground teams arrived in Praia around 20th July and worked extremely hard for two weeks setting up the aerosol laboratory and radar. This is the first international deployment of the NCAS radar and consequently it has taken a tremendous amount of effort. The aircraft arrived on 4th August and science flights began on 6th. With only a short 3-week window in which to collect the measurements, it’s all systems go.

Follow the updates from the scientists on twitter using the #ICE_D tag.

Read the NCAS AMF blog