Articles | Volume 12, issue 12
Research article
22 Jun 2012
Research article |  | 22 Jun 2012

New representation of water activity based on a single solute specific constant to parameterize the hygroscopic growth of aerosols in atmospheric models

S. Metzger, B. Steil, L. Xu, J. E. Penner, and J. Lelieveld

Abstract. Water activity is a key factor in aerosol thermodynamics and hygroscopic growth. We introduce a new representation of water activity (aw), which is empirically related to the solute molality (μs) through a single solute specific constant, νi. Our approach is widely applicable, considers the Kelvin effect and covers ideal solutions at high relative humidity (RH), including cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) activation. It also encompasses concentrated solutions with high ionic strength at low RH such as the relative humidity of deliquescence (RHD). The constant νi can thus be used to parameterize the aerosol hygroscopic growth over a wide range of particle sizes, from nanometer nucleation mode to micrometer coarse mode particles. In contrast to other aw-representations, our νi factor corrects the solute molality both linearly and in exponent form x · ax. We present four representations of our basic aw-parameterization at different levels of complexity for different aw-ranges, e.g. up to 0.95, 0.98 or 1. νi is constant over the selected aw-range, and in its most comprehensive form, the parameterization describes the entire aw range (0–1). In this work we focus on single solute solutions. νi can be pre-determined with a root-finding method from our water activity representation using an aw−μs data pair, e.g. at solute saturation using RHD and solubility measurements. Our aw and supersaturation (Köhler-theory) results compare well with the thermodynamic reference model E-AIM for the key compounds NaCl and (NH4)2SO4 relevant for CCN modeling and calibration studies. Envisaged applications include regional and global atmospheric chemistry and climate modeling.

Final-revised paper