Aerosol Effect on Cloud Droplet Size Monitored from Satellite

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Science  01 Feb 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5556, pp. 834-838
DOI: 10.1126/science.1066434

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Aerosol concentration and cloud droplet radii derived from space-borne measurements are used to explore the effect of aerosols on cloud microphysics. Cloud droplet size is found to be largest (14 micrometers) over remote tropical oceans and smallest (6 micrometers) over highly polluted continental areas. Small droplets are also present in clouds downwind of continents. By using estimates of droplet radii coupled with aerosol load, a statistical mean relationship is derived. The cloud droplet size appears to be better correlated with an aerosol index that is representative of the aerosol column number under some assumptions than with the aerosol optical thickness. This study reveals that the effect of aerosols on cloud microphysics is significant and occurs on a global scale.

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