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  • Author or Editor: Barry J. Huebert x
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Cynthia H. Twohy
,
Philip A. Durkee
,
Barry J. Huebert
, and
Robert J. Charlson

Abstract

Aerosol particles can act as cloud condensation nuclei and thereby influence the number and size of droplets in clouds. Consequently, anthropogenic particles have the potential to influence global climate by increasing cloud albedo and decreasing precipitation efficiencies. Enhanced cloud reflectances associated with increases in panicle number have been observed, but our understanding of these interactions has been hindered by incomplete empirical studies and models of limited scope.

In this study, aerosol and droplet size distributions were measured on 13 research flights in stratiform clouds within 300 km west of the northern California coast. The chemical composition of the droplet solute was also assessed. Microphysical and chemical properties indicated that most of the clouds were influenced by pollution from the North American continent, but pristine marine clouds were sampled on one flight during westerly flow conditions. Data from this flight and another, representing a pristine and polluted environment, were compared with high-resolution satellite observations.

In the polluted case, particle and droplet number concentrations decreased, mean droplet size increased, and satellite-derived reflectance at 3.7 μm decreased with increasing distance from the northern California urban region. Relative to the unpolluted stratiform cloud, the polluted cloud had, on average, a sulfate concentration that was higher by an order of magnitude, droplet number concentrations higher by a factor of 6, droplet sizes smaller by a factor of 2, and 3.7-μm reflectance that was higher by a factor of 2. However, no significant difference in the visible reflectance was detected between the two cases, probably a result of differences in liquid water path.

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