Geophysical Research Letters

Observations of the width of cloud droplet spectra in stratocumulus

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Abstract

[1] This paper discusses in-situ aircraft observations of cloud microphysics in eight cases of marine stratocumulus investigated during the Second Aerosol Characterization Experiment (ACE2) in the eastern subtropical Atlantic. The emphasis is on the spectral width of cloud droplet spectra, an important parameter affecting radiative properties of clouds and the development of drizzle and rain. For a given flight (i.e., for given characteristics of the cloud condensation nuclei, CCN), local droplet concentration varies considerably. The standard deviation of the cloud droplet spectra, σ, is typically in the range of 1 to 2 μm. It does not vary systematically between maritime and polluted clouds, and shows a surprisingly small difference between near-adiabatic and diluted cloud samples. The relative dispersion d, the ratio between σ and the mean radius equation image is between 0.1 and 0.4. In agreement with previous studies, larger values are typically associated with polluted clouds, mostly because such clouds have smaller droplets. For all flights, d either decreases with height or does not change significantly. Based on these observations, a simple parameterization of the relative dispersion d is proposed.

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