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Department of Physics


The Pi Cloud Chamber offers a unique opportunity to study aerosol-cloud microphysics interactions in a steady-state, turbulent environment. In this work, an atmospheric large-eddy simulation (LES) model with spectral bin microphysics is scaled down to simulate these interactions, allowing comparison with experimental results. A simple scalar flux budget model is developed and used to explore the effect of sidewalls on the bulk mixing temperature, water vapor mixing ratio, and supersaturation. The scaled simulation and the simple scalar flux budget model produce comparable bulk mixing scalar values. The LES dynamics results are compared with particle image velocimetry measurements of turbulent kinetic energy, energy dissipation rates, and large-scale oscillation frequencies from the cloud chamber. These simulated results match quantitatively to experimental results. Finally, with the bin microphysics included the LES is able to simulate steady-state cloud conditions and broadening of the cloud droplet size distributions with decreasing droplet number concentration, as observed in the experiments. The results further suggest that collision-coalescence does not contribute significantly to this broadening. This opens a path for further detailed intercomparison of laboratory and simulation results for model validation and exploration of specific physical processes.

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©2019. The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made. Publisher’s version of record:

Publication Title

Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems


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