Articles | Volume 15, issue 7
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 15, 3803–3814, 2015
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 15, 3803–3814, 2015

Research article 09 Apr 2015

Research article | 09 Apr 2015

Revisiting Twomey's approximation for peak supersaturation

B. J. Shipway B. J. Shipway
  • Met Office, Exeter, UK

Abstract. Twomey's seminal 1959 paper provided lower and upper bound approximations to the estimation of peak supersaturation within an updraft and thus provides the first closed expression for the number of nucleated cloud droplets. The form of this approximation is simple, but provides a surprisingly good estimate and has subsequently been employed in more sophisticated treatments of nucleation parametrization. In the current paper, we revisit the lower bound approximation of Twomey and make a small adjustment that can be used to obtain a more accurate calculation of peak supersaturation under all potential aerosol loadings and thermodynamic conditions. In order to make full use of this improved approximation, the underlying integro-differential equation for supersaturation evolution and the condition for calculating peak supersaturation are examined. A simple rearrangement of the algebra allows for an expression to be written down that can then be solved with a single lookup table with only one independent variable for an underlying lognormal aerosol population. While multimodal aerosol with N different dispersion characteristics requires 2N+1 inputs to calculate the activation fraction, only N of these one-dimensional lookup tables are needed. No additional information is required in the lookup table to deal with additional chemical, physical or thermodynamic properties. The resulting implementation provides a relatively simple, yet computationally cheap, physically based parametrization of droplet nucleation for use in climate and Numerical Weather Prediction models.

Short summary
A new parametrization for cloud droplet nucleation is described. This revised approach makes use of a simple look-up table which is very efficient and computationally very cheap. Adopting this approach further allows for a more accurate treatment of the necessary approximations of supersaturation evolution and ultimately leads to a more accurate calculation of peak supersaturation and hence droplet nucleation.
Final-revised paper