Articles | Volume 11, issue 9
Research article
10 May 2011
Research article |  | 10 May 2011

Cold and transition season cloud condensation nuclei measurements in western Colorado

D. S. Ward and W. R. Cotton

Abstract. Recent studies have shown that orographic precipitation and the water resources that depend on it in the Colorado Rocky Mountains are sensitive to the variability of the region's aerosols, whether emitted locally or from distant sources. However, observations of cloud droplet nucleating aerosols in western Colorado, climatologically upwind of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, have been limited to a few studies at a single, northern site. To address this knowledge gap, atmospheric aerosols were sampled at a ground site in southwestern Colorado and in low-level north to south transects of the Colorado Western Slope as part of the Inhibition of Snowfall by Pollution Aerosols (ISPA-III) field campaign. Total particle and cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) number concentrations were measured for a 24-day period in Mesa Verde National Park, in September and October 2009. Regression analysis showed a positive relationship between mid-troposphere atmospheric pressure to the west of the site and the total particle count at the ground site, but no similar statistically significant relationship was found for the observed CCN. These data were supplemented with particle and CCN number concentration, as well as particle size distribution measurements collected aboard the King Air platform during December 2009. A CCN closure attempt was performed and suggested that the sampled aerosol may have had a low hygroscopicity that changed little with the large-scale wind direction. Together, the sampled aerosols from these field programs were characteristic of a rural continental environment with CCN number concentrations that varied slowly in time, and little in space along the Western Slope.

Final-revised paper