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Published August 2000 | Published
Journal Article Open

Design of a CCN instrument for airborne measurement


A new instrument for measuring cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) on board small aircraft is described. Small aircraft are attractive mainly because they are less costly, but they require instruments that are designed for minimum weight, volume, and power consumption; that are robust; and that are capable of autonomous operation and making measurements at a frequency appropriate for aircraft speeds. The instrument design combines the streamwise gradient technique previously reported by J. G. Hudson, and the alternating gradient condensation nuclei counter described by W. A. Hoppel et al. Field and laboratory measurements, and modeling studies show that this combination exhibits poor sensitivity for the measurement of CCN spectra; for the climatically important range of critical supersaturations, 0.03%–1%, the measured variable, droplet diameter, varies only by 30%. The ability to resolve CCN spectra using this method is therefore in question. Studies of this instrument in a fixed supersaturation mode show that it can measure CCN at a single supersaturation in the range of 0.1%–2%. Calibration and testing of the instrument in this mode is described. The instrument is capable of making accurate, high-frequency (>0.1 Hz) measurements of CCN at a fixed supersaturation, while satisfying the constraints for small aircraft.

Additional Information

© 2000 by American Meteorological Society. Manuscript received April 1, 1999; in final form October 3, 1999. This work was supported by Office of Naval Research Grant N00014-91-0119 and National Science Foundation Grant ATM-9614105.

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