Journal cover Journal topic
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 2459-2468, 2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
05 Mar 2012
Aerosols-cloud microphysics-thermodynamics-turbulence: evaluating supersaturation in a marine stratocumulus cloud
F. Ditas1, R. A. Shaw2,1, H. Siebert1, M. Simmel1, B. Wehner1, and A. Wiedensohler1 1Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (IfT), Permoserstr. 15, 04318 Leipzig, Germany
2Department of Physics, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Michigan, USA
Abstract. This work presents a unique combination of aerosol, cloud microphysical, thermodynamic and turbulence variables to characterize supersaturation fluctuations in a turbulent marine stratocumulus (SC) layer. The analysis is based on observations with the helicopter-borne measurement platform ACTOS and a detailed cloud microphysical parcel model following three different approaches: (1) From the comparison of aerosol number size distributions inside and below the SC layer, the number of activated particles is calculated as 435±87 cm−3 and compares well with the observed median droplet number concentration of Nd = 464 cm−3. Furthermore, a 50% activation diameter of Dp50≈115 nm was derived, which was linked to a critical supersaturation Scrit of 0.16% via Köhler theory. From the shape of the fraction of activated particles, we estimated a standard deviation of supersaturation fluctuations of σS' = 0.09%. (2) These estimates are compared to more direct thermodynamic observations at cloud base. Therefore, supersaturation fluctuations (S') are calculated based on highly-resolved thermodynamic data showing a standard deviation of S' ranging within 0.1%≤σS'≤0.3 %. (3) The sensitivity of the supersaturation on observed vertical wind velocity fluctuations is investigated with the help of a detailed cloud microphysical model. These results show highest fluctuations of S' with σS'=0.1% at cloud base and a decreasing σS' with increasing liquid water content and droplet number concentration. All three approaches are independent of each other and vary only within a factor of about two.

Citation: Ditas, F., Shaw, R. A., Siebert, H., Simmel, M., Wehner, B., and Wiedensohler, A.: Aerosols-cloud microphysics-thermodynamics-turbulence: evaluating supersaturation in a marine stratocumulus cloud, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 2459-2468,, 2012.
Publications Copernicus