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Worldwide data sets constrain the water vapor uptake coefficient in cloud formation

Raatikainen, Tomi and Nenes, Athanasios and Seinfeld, John H. and Morales, Ricardo and Moore, Richard H. and Lathem, Terry L. and Lance, Sara and Padró, Luz T. and Lin, Jack L. and Cerully, Kate M. and Bougiatioti, Aikaterini and Cozic, Julie and Ruehl, Christopher R. and Chuang, Patrick Y. and Anderson, Bruce E. and Flagan, Richard C. and Jonsson, Haflidi and Mihalopoulos, Nikos and Smith, James N. (2013) Worldwide data sets constrain the water vapor uptake coefficient in cloud formation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110 (10). pp. 3760-3764. ISSN 0027-8424. PMCID PMC3593859. doi:10.1073/pnas.1219591110.

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Cloud droplet formation depends on the condensation of water vapor on ambient aerosols, the rate of which is strongly affected by the kinetics of water uptake as expressed by the condensation (or mass accommodation) coefficient, α_c. Estimates of α_c for droplet growth from activation of ambient particles vary considerably and represent a critical source of uncertainty in estimates of global cloud droplet distributions and the aerosol indirect forcing of climate. We present an analysis of 10 globally relevant data sets of cloud condensation nuclei to constrain the value of αc for ambient aerosol. We find that rapid activation kinetics (α_c > 0.1) is uniformly prevalent. This finding resolves a long-standing issue in cloud physics, as the uncertainty in water vapor accommodation on droplets is considerably less than previously thought.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription DOIArticle CentralArticle
Nenes, Athanasios0000-0003-3873-9970
Seinfeld, John H.0000-0003-1344-4068
Chuang, Patrick Y.0000-0003-2290-8346
Flagan, Richard C.0000-0001-5690-770X
Jonsson, Haflidi0000-0003-3043-1074
Smith, James N.0000-0003-4677-8224
Additional Information:© 2013 National Academy of Sciences. Edited by Mark H. Thiemens, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA, and approved January 18, 2013 (received for review November 13, 2012). Published online before print February 19, 2013. We thank Dr. Xiaohong Liu for advice on using the CAM 5.1 and for providing computer time for the simulations. We also thank all those who contributed to the measurement campaigns; Charles Brock from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Earth System Research Laboratory; and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Langley Aerosol Research Group Experiment for supporting aerosol measurements during Arctic Research of the Composition of the Troposphere from Aircraft and Satellites. T.R. thanks the Finnish Cultural Foundation; S.L. and J.J.L. acknowledge the support of a Georgia Tech President’s fellowship and an National Center for Atmospheric Research Advanced Study Program Graduate Fellowship; and J.J.L. thanks the NASA Graduate Student Researchers Program for funding. R.H.M. acknowledges support from a Department of Energy Global Change Education Fellowship, a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship, and a NASA postdoctoral fellowship. L.T.P. received funding from a NASA Earth System Science fellowship. T.L.L. acknowledges support from a National Science Foundation (NSF) fellowship and a Georgia Tech institutional fellowship. Funding from a DOE grant (to A.N.), the Electric Power Research Institute, an NSF Faculty Early Career Development award (to A.N.), NOAA grants (to J.H.S. and A.N.), and NASA grants (to A.N.) is acknowledged. Author contributions: T.R. and A.N. designed research; T.R., A.N., J.H.S., R.M., R.H.M., T.L.L., S.L., L.T.P., J.J.L., K.M.C., A.B., J.C., B.E.A., R.C.F., H.J., N.M., and J.N.S. performed research; T.R., A.N., J.H.S., R.M., C.R.R., P.Y.C., B.E.A., and N.M. contributed new reagents/analytic tools; T.R., A.N., R.H.M., T.L.L., S.L., L.T.P., J.J.L., K.M.C., A.B., J.C., B.E.A., R.C.F., N.M., and J.N.S. analyzed data; and T.R., A.N., and J.H.S. wrote the paper.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Finnish Cultural FoundationUNSPECIFIED
National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)UNSPECIFIED
NASA Graduate Student Research FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Department of Energy (DOE)UNSPECIFIED
NASA Earth and Space Science FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
NASA Postdoctoral FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
NASA Earth Systems Science FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Department of Energy (DOE)UNSPECIFIED
Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)UNSPECIFIED
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)UNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:global climate; hydrological cycle; precipitation
Issue or Number:10
PubMed Central ID:PMC3593859
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20130423-105257604
Persistent URL:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:38075
Deposited By: Jason Perez
Deposited On:23 Apr 2013 23:07
Last Modified:09 Nov 2021 23:33

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