Effects of aerosols and relative humidity on cumulus clouds Academic Article uri icon


  • The influences of the aerosol type and concentration and relative humidity (RH) on cumulus clouds have been investigated using a two-dimensional spectral-bin cloud model. Three simulations are conducted to represent the polluted continental, clean continental, and marine aerosol types. Under the same initial dynamic and thermodynamic conditions, the maritime aerosol case results in more intensive radar reflectivity in both developing and mature stages than the continental aerosol cases, because of enhanced warm rain by collisions and ice processes by deposition growth due to larger droplet sizes and higher supersaturation, respectively. The considerable delay in convective development due to reduced droplet condensation is responsible for the longer cloud lifetime in the marine aerosol case. For the continental case, the most noticeable effects of increasing aerosol number concentrations (with 15 different initial values) are the increases of the cloud droplet number concentration and cloud water content but a decrease in the effective droplet radius. More latent heat release from increasing condensation results in stronger convection and more melting precipitation at the higher aerosol concentrations. Melting precipitation and secondary clouds primarily contribute to enhanced precipitation with increasing aerosols. The precipitation, however, decreases with increasing aerosol in the extremely high aerosol cases (over 5 104 cm-3) due to suppression of convection from depleted water vapor and inefficient coalescence. When the initial aerosol concentration exceeds a critical level, most of the cloud properties become less sensitive to aerosols, implying that the aerosol effect on deep convection is more pronounced in relatively clean air than in heavily polluted air. The aerosol effect on the cloud properties is strongly dependent on RH. As the surface RH increases from 40 to 70%, the cloud changes from shallow warm to deep convective types due to a significant increase of convective available potential energy (CAPE). The aerosol effects on the cloud microphysical properties and precipitation are negligible in dry air (40% surface RH), but much more significant in humid air (60-70% surface RH). The rain delay is sensitive to RH, but not to aerosols under similar initial thermodynamic conditions. Copyright 2007 by the American Geophysical Union.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Fan, J., Zhang, R., Li, G., & Tao, W.

citation count

  • 197

complete list of authors

  • Fan, Jiwen||Zhang, Renyi||Li, Guohui||Tao, Wei-Kuo

publication date

  • July 2007