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Department of Physics


Microphysical processes are important for the development of clouds and thus Earth's climate. For example, turbulent fluctuations in the water vapor concentration, r, and temperature, T, cause fluctuations in the saturation ratio, S. Because S is the driving factor in the condensational growth of droplets, fluctuations may broaden the cloud droplet size distribution due to individual droplets experiencing different growth rates. The small scale turbulent fluctuations in the atmosphere that are relevant to cloud droplets are difficult to quantify through field measurements. We investigate these processes in the laboratory, using Michigan Tech's Π Chamber. The Π Chamber utilizes Rayleigh-Benard convection (RBC) to create the turbulent conditions inherent in clouds. In RBC it is common for a large scale circulation (LSC) to form. As a consequence of the LSC, the temperature field of the chamber is not spatially uniform. In this paper, we characterize the LSC in the Π chamber and show how it affects the shape of the distributions of r, T and S. The LSC was found to follow a single roll with an updraft and downdraft along opposing walls of the chamber. Near the updraft (downdraft), the distributions of T and r were positively (negatively) skewed. S consistently had a negatively skewed distribution, with the downdraft being the most negative.

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© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. Publisher’s version of record:

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



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