Researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) think they are on the path to giving aircraft a way to avoid potentially hazardous icing conditions from a safe distance.
Clouds composed of supercooled liquid can cause aircraft to ice over quickly because the liquid water droplets are below the freezing point and will freeze after contact with aircraft surfaces.
Supercooled liquid clouds are difficult to detect using conventional ground-based or airborne weather radars. Those instruments do not provide information on the temperature of clouds and precipitation, and supercooled droplets are often too small to be detected by radar.
NRL Researchers are approaching the problem by investigating the feasibility of a forward-looking passive sensor which would be particularly useful when size, weight, and power requirements restrict the installation of deicing equipment.
The simulations were performed using ARTS, the Atmospheric Radiative Transfer Simulator, a state-of-the-art radiative transfer model with 3D capabilities. So far, the model shows supercooled liquid layers not visible to ground-based radar.
Further simulation work will expand the set of atmospheric conditions modeled.