Aerosols-cloud microphysics-thermodynamics-turbulence: Evaluating supersaturation in a marine stratocumulus cloud

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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. © 2012 Author(s).

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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics