The evolution of cloud droplet size spectra is calculated using an adiabatic condensational growth model. Broadness (e.g., standard deviation of diameter) of cloud droplet spectra in adiabatic cloud parcels was determined to be critically dependent on cloud supersaturation. Although droplet spectra become narrower as growth continues, the rate of narrowing is slower when cloud supersaturation is lower. This actually leads to broader droplet spectra for more continental clouds or for weaker updrafts because both of these conditions are associated with lower cloud supersaturations. More continental type clouds, which have higher concentrations of smaller droplets, were indeed found to have larger dispersions (standard deviation of diameter/mean diameter of cloud droplets). Some of these results were consistent with observations, but the larger dispersions that were much more commonly observed for continental compared to maritime clouds were due almost exclusively to smaller droplets rather than broader droplet distributions. Contrary to the model calculations, typical observations show that cleaner clouds usually have broader droplet spectra. The gaps in magnitude between theory and observations of broadness are significant in all clouds. When cloud parcels that had ascended under different updraft conditions were compared at a constant cloud altitude, parcels with lower updrafts were predicted to have broader droplet spectra with larger mean diameters. This trend of apparent spectral broadening was consistent with observations for some near-adiabatic cloud parcels.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Atmospheric Science