The role of turbulent fluctuations in aerosol activation and cloud formation

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Department of Physics; Atmospheric Sciences


Aerosol indirect effects are one of the leading contributors to cloud radiative properties relevant to climate. Aerosol particles become cloud droplets when the ambient relative humidity (saturation ratio) exceeds a critical value, which depends on the particle size and chemical composition. In the traditional formulation of this problem, only average, uniform saturation ratios are considered. Using experiments and theory, we examine the effects of fluctuations, produced by turbulence. Our measurements, from a multiphase, turbulent cloud chamber, show a clear transition from a regime in which the mean saturation ratio dominates to one in which the fluctuations determine cloud properties. The laboratory measurements demonstrate cloud formation in mean-subsaturated conditions (i.e., relative humidity

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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of American