Sea-spray regulates sulfate cloud droplet activation over oceans
Fossum, Kirsten N.
Snider, Jefferson R.
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Fossum, Kirsten N., Ovadnevaite, Jurgita, Ceburnis, Darius, Preißler, Jana, Snider, Jefferson R., Huang, Ru-Jin, Zuend, Andreas, O’Dowd, Colin. (2020). Sea-spray regulates sulfate cloud droplet activation over oceans. npj Climate and Atmospheric Science, 3(1), 14. doi:10.1038/s41612-020-0116-2
Sulfate aerosols are typically the dominant source of cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) over remote oceans and their abundance is thought to be the dominating factor in determining oceanic cloud brightness. Their activation into cloud droplets depends on dynamics (i.e. vertical updrafts) and competition with other potential CCN sources for the condensing water. We present new experimental results from the remote Southern Ocean illustrating that, for a given updraft, the peak supersaturation reached in cloud, and consequently the number of droplets activated on sulfate nuclei, is strongly but inversely proportional to the concentration of sea-salt activated despite a 10-fold lower abundance. Greater sea-spray nuclei availability mostly suppresses sulfate aerosol activation leading to an overall decrease in cloud droplet concentrations; however, for high vertical updrafts and low sulfate aerosol availability, increased sea-spray can augment cloud droplet concentrations. This newly identified effect where sea-salt nuclei indirectly controls sulfate nuclei activation into cloud droplets could potentially lead to changes in the albedo of marine boundary layer clouds by as much as 30%.
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