Articles | Volume 11, issue 16
Research article
25 Aug 2011
Research article |  | 25 Aug 2011

Cloud condensation nuclei activity and droplet activation kinetics of wet processed regional dust samples and minerals

P. Kumar, I. N. Sokolik, and A. Nenes

Abstract. This study reports laboratory measurements of particle size distributions, cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) activity, and droplet activation kinetics of wet generated aerosols from clays, calcite, quartz, and desert soil samples from Northern Africa, East Asia/China, and Northern America. The dependence of critical supersaturation, sc, on particle dry diameter, Ddry, is used to characterize particle-water interactions and assess the ability of Frenkel-Halsey-Hill adsorption activation theory (FHH-AT) and Köhler theory (KT) to describe the CCN activity of the considered samples. Wet generated regional dust samples produce unimodal size distributions with particle sizes as small as 40 nm, CCN activation consistent with KT, and exhibit hygroscopicity similar to inorganic salts. Wet generated clays and minerals produce a bimodal size distribution; the CCN activity of the smaller mode is consistent with KT, while the larger mode is less hydrophilic, follows activation by FHH-AT, and displays almost identical CCN activity to dry generated dust. Ion Chromatography (IC) analysis performed on regional dust samples indicates a soluble fraction that cannot explain the CCN activity of dry or wet generated dust. A mass balance and hygroscopicity closure suggests that the small amount of ions (from low solubility compounds like calcite) present in the dry dust dissolve in the aqueous suspension during the wet generation process and give rise to the observed small hygroscopic mode. Overall these results identify an artifact that may question the atmospheric relevance of dust CCN activity studies using the wet generation method.

Based on the method of threshold droplet growth analysis, wet generated mineral aerosols display similar activation kinetics compared to ammonium sulfate calibration aerosol. Finally, a unified CCN activity framework that accounts for concurrent effects of solute and adsorption is developed to describe the CCN activity of aged or hygroscopic dusts.

Final-revised paper