Evaluation of a new cloud droplet activation parameterization with in situ data from CRYSTAL-FACE and CSTRIPE

Nicholas Meskhidze, Athanasios Nenes, William C. Conant, John H. Seinfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


The accuracy of the 2003 prognostic, physically based aerosol activation parameterization of A. Nenes and J. H. Seinfeld (NS) with modifications introduced by C. Fountoukis and A. Nenes in 2005 (modified NS) is evaluated against extensive microphysical data sets collected on board the Center for Interdisciplinary Remotely Piloted Aircraft Studies (CIRPAS) Twin Otter aircraft for cumuliform and stratiform clouds of marine and continental origin. The cumuliform cloud data were collected during NASA's Cirrus Regional Study of Tropical Anvils and Cirrus Layers-Florida Area Cirrus Experiment (CRYSTAL-FACE, Key West, Florida, July 2002), while the stratiform cloud data were gathered during Coastal Stratocumulus Imposed Perturbation Experiment (CSTRIPE, Monterey, California, July 2003). In situ data sets of aerosol size distribution, chemical composition, and updraft velocities are used as input for the NS parameterization, and the evaluation is carried out by comparing predicted cloud droplet number concentrations (CDNC) with observations. This is the first known study in which a prognostic cloud droplet activation parameterization has been evaluated against a wide range of observations. On average, predicted droplet concentration in adiabatic regions is within ∼20% of observations at the base of cumuliform clouds and ∼30% of observations at different altitudes throughout the stratiform clouds, all within experimental uncertainty. Furthermore, CDNC is well parameterized using either a single mean updraft velocity w̄ or by weighting droplet nucleation rates with a Gaussian probability density function of w. This study suggests that for nonprecipitating warm clouds of variable microphysics, aerosol composition, and size distribution the modified NS parameterization can accurately predict cloud droplet activation and can be successfully implemented for describing the aerosol activation process in global climate models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberD16202
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research D: Atmospheres
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 27 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


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