Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Applied Physics (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Physics

Advisor 1

Will Cantrell

Committee Member 1

Raymond Shaw

Committee Member 2

Mark Kulie


The water vapor concentration plays an important role for many atmospheric processes. The mean concentration is key to understand water vapor's effect on the climate as a greenhouse gas. The fluctuations about the mean are important to understand heat fluxes between Earth's surface and the boundary layer. These fluctuations are linked to turbulence that is present in the boundary layer. Turbulent conditions are simulated in Michigan Tech’s multiphase, turbulent reaction chamber, the π chamber. Measurements for temperature and water vapor concentration were recorded under forced Rayleigh- Bénard convection at several turbulent intensities. These were used to calculate the saturation ratio, often referred to as the relative humidity. The fluctuations in the water vapor concentration were found to be the more important than the temperature for the variability of the saturation ratio. The fluctuations in the saturation ratio result in some cloud droplets experiencing a higher supersaturation than other cloud droplets, causing those "lucky" droplets to grow at a faster rate than other droplets. This difference in growth rates could contribute to a broadening of the size distribution of cloud droplets, resulting in the enhancement of collision-coalescence. These fluctuations become more pronounced with more intense turbulence.