Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Word of the Day -- Diamond Dust (ice crystal clouds)

Diamond dust is a ground-level cloud composed of tiny ice crystals. This meteorological phenomenon is also referred to simply as ice crystals and is reported in the METAR code as IC. Diamond dust generally forms under otherwise clear or nearly clear skies, so it is sometimes referred to as clear-sky precipitation. It is most commonly observed in Antarctica and the Arctic, but it can

occur anywhere with a temperature well below freezing. In Polar regions diamond dust may continue for several days without interruption.
Diamond dust is similar to fog in that it is a cloud based at the surface; however, it differs from fog in two main ways. Generally fog refers to a cloud composed of liquid water (the term ice fog usually refers to a fog that formed as liquid water and then froze, and frequently seems to occur in valleys with airborne pollution such as Fairbanks, Alaska, while diamond dust forms directly as ice). Also, fog is a dense enough cloud to significantly reduce visibility, while diamond dust is usually very thin and may not have any effect on visibility (there are far fewer crystals in a volume of air than there are droplets in the same volume with fog). However, diamond dust can often reduce the visibility, in some cases to under 600 m (2,000 ft).

The depth of the diamond dust layer can vary substantially from as little as 20 to 30 m (66 to 98 ft) to 300 metres (980 ft). Because diamond dust does not always reduce visibility it is often first noticed by the brief flashes caused when the tiny crystals, tumbling through the air, reflect sunlight to your eye. This glittering effect gives the phenomenon its name since it looks like many tiny diamonds are flashing in the air.

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