Document Type


Publication Date



Clouds, crucial for understanding climate, begin with droplet formation from aerosols, but observations of this fleeting activation step are lacking in the atmosphere. Here we use a time-gated time-correlated single-photon counting lidar to observe cloud base structures at decimeter scales. Results show that the air-cloud interface is not a perfect boundary but rather is a transition zone where transformation of aerosol particles into cloud droplets occurs. The observed distributions of first-arriving photons within the transition zone reflect vertical development of a cloud, including droplet activation and condensational growth. Further, the highly resolved vertical profile of backscattered photons above cloud base enables remote estimation of droplet concentration, an elusive but critical property to understand aerosol-cloud interactions. Our results show the feasibility of remotely monitoring cloud properties at submeter scales, thus providing much needed insights into impacts of atmospheric pollution on clouds, and aerosol-cloud interactions that influence climate.


Paper is accepted in principle in npj Climate and Atmospheric Science.

ReadMe.txt (1 kB)
ReadMe File

Included in

Physics Commons