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Stratocumulus clouds: A little-known icing threat behind a cold front

Added on: October 10, 2016         Duration: 13 minutes

Normally pilots look forward to improving weather conditions after the passage of a cold front. The cold, dense air behind the front becomes negatively buoyant sinking and drying out the air. Moderate northwesterly winds will often prevail making for moderate mechanical turbulence that can extend up to 8,000 feet AGL. Other than turbulent air, we don't encounter much in the way of adverse weather with few clouds, no precipitation and unlimited visibility. But how many pilots think about the icing threat that can occur in an overcast stratocumulus deck after the passage of a strong cold front? Even a thin stratocumulus cloud deck can contain a large liquid water content especially near the tops. When the temperature is just right, these harmless-looking clouds can surprise a pilot with some moderate or occasionally severe icing while climbing or descending through them, especially those pilots flying aircraft without certified ice protection systems (IPSs). In this workshop we'll explore the conditions that produce stratocumulus clouds and learn how to recognize when there's a threat of icing conditions.

 

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