Articles | Volume 15, issue 12
Research article
16 Jun 2015
Research article |  | 16 Jun 2015

Enhanced extinction of visible radiation due to hydrated aerosols in mist and fog

T. Elias, J.-C. Dupont, E. Hammer, C. R. Hoyle, M. Haeffelin, F. Burnet, and D. Jolivet

Abstract. The study assesses the contribution of aerosols to the extinction of visible radiation in the mist–fog–mist cycle. Relative humidity is large in the mist–fog–mist cycle, and aerosols most efficient in interacting with visible radiation are hydrated and compose the accumulation mode. Measurements of the microphysical and optical properties of these hydrated aerosols with diameters larger than 0.4 μm were carried out near Paris, during November 2011, under ambient conditions. Eleven mist–fog–mist cycles were observed, with a cumulated fog duration of 96 h, and a cumulated mist–fog–mist cycle duration of 240 h.

In mist, aerosols grew by taking up water at relative humidities larger than 93%, causing a visibility decrease below 5 km. While visibility decreased down from 5 to a few kilometres, the mean size of the hydrated aerosols increased, and their number concentration (Nha) increased from approximately 160 to approximately 600 cm−3. When fog formed, droplets became the strongest contributors to visible radiation extinction, and liquid water content (LWC) increased beyond 7 mg m−3. Hydrated aerosols of the accumulation mode co-existed with droplets, as interstitial non-activated aerosols. Their size continued to increase, and some aerosols achieved diameters larger than 2.5 μm. The mean transition diameter between the aerosol accumulation mode and the small droplet mode was 4.0 ± 1.1 μm. Nha also increased on average by 60 % after fog formation. Consequently, the mean contribution to extinction in fog was 20 ± 15% from hydrated aerosols smaller than 2.5 μm and 6 ± 7% from larger aerosols. The standard deviation was large because of the large variability of Nha in fog, which could be smaller than in mist or 3 times larger.

The particle extinction coefficient in fog can be computed as the sum of a droplet component and an aerosol component, which can be approximated by 3.5 Nha (Nha in cm−3 and particle extinction coefficient in Mm−1. We observed an influence of the main formation process on Nha, but not on the contribution to fog extinction by aerosols. Indeed, in fogs formed by stratus lowering (STL), the mean Nha was 360 ± 140 cm−3, close to the value observed in mist, while in fogs formed by nocturnal radiative cooling (RAD) under cloud-free sky, the mean Nha was 600 ± 350 cm−3. But because visibility (extinction) in fog was also lower (larger) in RAD than in STL fogs, the contribution by aerosols to extinction depended little on the fog formation process. Similarly, the proportion of hydrated aerosols over all aerosols (dry and hydrated) did not depend on the fog formation process.

Measurements showed that visibility in RAD fogs was smaller than in STL fogs due to three factors: (1) LWC was larger in RAD than in STL fogs, (2) droplets were smaller, (3) hydrated aerosols composing the accumulation mode were more numerous.

Final-revised paper