Sizing Up Aerosols

Science  02 Jun 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5778, pp. 1273b
DOI: 10.1126/science.312.5778.1273b

Determining which aerosol particles will act as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) is vital for understanding the interaction of aerosols and clouds and the resulting climatic impacts. However, the formation of CCN is thought to occur through a complex series of processes that includes many chemical and physical pathways, and has always been difficult for models to parameterize. Dusek et al. (p. 1375; see the Perspective by Rosenfeld) show that measured CCN concentrations can be approximated quite well for a number of classes of aerosols by using mainly size-distribution measurements and only a crude parameterization of the chemical effects on CCN activation. This result, if general, has important implications for the fields of cloud and climate modeling in that it would greatly simplify the treatment of aerosol effects on cloud physics in regional and global models and allow CCN abundances to be estimated from remote-sensing data.

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