Droplet spectral broadening in marine stratus

James G. Hudson, Seong Soo Yum

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90 Citations (Scopus)


Broadening of the cloud droplet (diameter < 50 μm) spectrum with increased droplet size was found to depend on the vertical profiles of cloud water. Clouds with liquid water profiles resembling adiabatic conditions displayed constant spectral widths. Other clouds displayed broader droplet spectra and increasing broadness with mean droplet sizes. Less than adiabatic cloud liquid water profiles may be accounted for by conversion to drops (diameter > 50 μm, i.e., drizzle). Broad droplet spectra were most closely associated with drizzle drops. Both the concentration, C, and slope, k, of the cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) spectra were theoretically found to affect droplet spectral width. For individual cloud parcels a higher C and lower k each contributed to broader droplet spectra. When mixing among cloud parcels with different updrafts was considered, the predictions deviated especially at larger mean droplet diameters. Variations in updraft velocity result in differences in droplet concentrations and mean droplet sizes. The predictions for this internal mixing process showed greater droplet spectral widths for CCN spectra with higher k, especially at the larger mean droplet diameters. Instead of the individual parcel predictions of narrower droplet spectra at larger mean droplet sizes, internal mixing predicted increasing droplet spectral width with increasing mean droplet size. These predictions are consistent with the observations. First, when only cloud parcels with small mean droplet diameters (<11 μm) were considered, the polluted clouds that formed on CCN with higher C and lower k displayed broader droplet spectra than clean clouds. Cloud parcels with large mean droplet diameters (>12 μm) and large σc were observed only in clean conditions where k was high. Increasing droplet spectral width with mean droplet diameter (especially >12 μm) is typical of many observations here and elsewhere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2642-2654
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 1997 Nov 15

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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