Scanning electron microscopy and molecular dynamics of surfaces of growing and ablating hexagonal ice crystals

W. C. Pfalzgraff, University of Puget Sound
R. M. Hulscher, University of Puget Sound
S. P. Neshyba, University of Puget Sound


We present the first clearly resolved observations of surfaces of growing and ablating hexagonal ice crystals using variable-pressure scanning electron microscopy. The ice surface develops trans-prismatic strands, separated from one another by distances of 5ĝ€"10 μm. The strands are present at a wide range of supersaturations, but are most pronounced at temperatures near the frost point. Pyramidal facets consistent with Miller-Bravais indices of 1011, and possibly also 2021, are associated with ice growth under these conditions. A molecular-dynamics model of a free-standing iceIh nanocolumn containing 8400 water molecules does not develop trans-prismatic strands, suggesting these features originate at larger spatial or temporal scales. The possible relevance of these surface features to cirrus ice is discussed. © 2010 Author(s).