The July 2004 CRYSTAL-FACE field program, based from Key West, Florida, showed that long-lived thin tropopause cirrus (TTC) layers were common above thunderstorm anvils. This paper investigates the origins of these cloud using airborne measurements. The horizontal dimensions of the TTC were nearly identical to the convectively formed anvil beneath. However, the TTC did not appear to have originated from convective detrainment. Rather it appears to have formed in stably stratified air derived from high altitudes near the tropopause. The TTC was separated from the anvil by approx. 1 km, it lacked precipitation particles, and it was strongly depleted in HDO. Nonetheless, compared to surrounding clear air near the tropopause, the TTC was enriched in moisture and trace gases in a manner consistent with it having mixed with the same convective airmass that produced the anvil. Unlike surrounding air, the TTC had embedded a monochromatic gravity wave with a wavelength of 2 km and an amplitude of several hundred meters. Combined, this evidence, supported by a photograph from CRYSTAL-FACE, leads to the conjecture that the TTC originated as a pileus cloud layer, which formed near the tropopause ahead of vigorous convective uplift. We hypothesize that the pileus was penetrated by the convection, moistened through mixing, and once the convection subsided, it was sustained by radiative cooling due to the presence of the anvil layer beneath.
Meteorology and Climatology