Drivers of cloud droplet number variability in the summertime Southeast United States Journal Article uri icon



  • Abstract. The Southeast United States has experienced a different climate warming trend compared to other places worldwide. Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain this trend, one being the interaction of anthropogenic and biogenic aerosol precursors that synergistically promote aerosol formation, elevate cloud droplet concentration and induce regional cooling. We examine these aerosol-cloud droplet links by analyzing regional scale data collected onboard the NOAA WP-3D aircraft during the 2013 Southeast Nexus (SENEX) campaign to quantify the sensitivity of droplet number to aerosol number, chemical composition and vertical velocity on a regional scale. The observed aerosol size distributions, chemical composition and vertical velocity distribution (Gaussian with standard deviation σw) are introduced into a state-of-the-art cloud droplet parameterization to show that cloud maximum supersaturations in the region are low, ranging from 0.02 to 0.52 % with an average of 0.14 ± 0.05 %. Based on these low values of supersaturation, the majority of activated droplets correspond to particles of diameter 90 nm and above. Droplet number shows little sensitivity to total aerosol owing to their strong competition for water vapor. Given, however, that σw exhibits considerable diurnal variability (ranging from 0.16 m/s during nighttime to over 1.2 m/s during day), its covariance with total aerosol number (Na) during the same period amplifies predicted response in cloud droplet number (Nd) by 3 to 5 times. Therefore, correct consideration of vertical velocity and its covariance with time and aerosol amount is important for fully understanding aerosol-cloud interactions and the magnitude of the aerosol indirect effect. Datasets and analysis such as the one presented here can provide the required constraints for addressing this important problem.;

publication date

  • March 17, 2020

has restriction

  • green

Date in CU Experts

  • June 3, 2021 10:18 AM

Full Author List

  • Bougiatioti A; Nenes A; Lin JJ; Brock CA; de Gouw J; Liao J; Middlebrook AM; Welti A

author count

  • 8

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