Deployment of a tethered-balloon system for microphysics and radiative measurements in mixed-phase clouds at Ny-Ålesund and South Pole

R. Paul Lawson, Knut Stamnes, Jakob Stamnes, Pat Zmarzly, Jeff Koskuliks, Chris Roden, Qixu Mo, Michael Carrithers, Geoffrey L. Bland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A tethered-balloon system capable of making microphysical and radiative measurements in clouds is described and examples of measurements in boundary layer stratus clouds in the Arctic and at the South Pole are presented. A 43-m3 helium-filled balloon lofts an instrument package that is powered by two copper conductors in the tether. The instrument package can support several instruments, including, but not limited to, a cloud particle imager; a forward-scattering spectrometer probe; temperature, pressure, humidity, and wind sensors; ice nuclei filters; and a 4-π radiometer that measures actinic flux at 500 and 800 nm. The balloon can stay aloft for an extended period of time (in excess of 24 h) and conduct vertical profiles up to about 1-2 km, contingent upon payload weight, wind speed, and surface elevation. Examples of measurements in mixedphase clouds at Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard (79°N), and at the South Pole are discussed. The stratus clouds at Ny-Ålesund ranged in temperature from 0° to -10°C and were mostly mixed phase with heavily rimed ice particles, even when cloud-top temperatures were warmer than 25°C. Conversely, mixed-phase clouds at the South Pole contained regions with only water drops at temperatures as cold as 232°C and were often composed of pristine ice crystals. The radiative properties of mixed-phase clouds are a critical component of radiative transfer in polar regions, which, in turn, is a lynch pin for climate change on a global scale.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)656-670
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ocean Engineering
  • Atmospheric Science


  • Climate change
  • Cloud microphysics
  • Instrumentation
  • Temperature

Cite this