Document Type


Publication Date



Department of Physics


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 N̄ d = 464 cm -3. Furthermore, a 50% activation diameter of D p50 ≈ 115 nm was derived, which was linked to a critical supersaturation S crit of 0.16% via Köhler theory. From the shape of the fraction of activated particles, we estimated a standard deviation of supersaturation fluctuations of σ S′ = 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%≤ σ S′ ≤ 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 σ S′ with σ S′ =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.

Publisher's Statement

© 2012 Author(s). Publisher’s version of record:

Publication Title

Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.


Publisher's PDF

Included in

Physics Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.