Articles | Volume 17, issue 9
Research article
03 May 2017
Research article |  | 03 May 2017

Global impact of mineral dust on cloud droplet number concentration

Vlassis A. Karydis, Alexandra P. Tsimpidi, Sara Bacer, Andrea Pozzer, Athanasios Nenes, and Jos Lelieveld

Abstract. The importance of wind-blown mineral dust for cloud droplet formation is studied by considering (i) the adsorption of water on the surface of insoluble particles, (ii) particle coating by soluble material (atmospheric aging) which augments cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) activity, and (iii) the effect of dust on inorganic aerosol concentrations through thermodynamic interactions with mineral cations. The ECHAM5/MESSy Atmospheric Chemistry (EMAC) model is used to simulate the composition of global atmospheric aerosol, while the ISORROPIA-II thermodynamic equilibrium model treats the interactions of K+-Ca2+-Mg2+-NH4+-Na+-SO42−-NO3-Cl-H2O aerosol with gas-phase inorganic constituents. Dust is considered a mixture of inert material with reactive minerals and its emissions are calculated online by taking into account the soil particle size distribution and chemical composition of different deserts worldwide. The impact of dust on droplet formation is treated through the unified dust activation parameterization that considers the inherent hydrophilicity from adsorption and acquired hygroscopicity from soluble salts during aging. Our simulations suggest that the presence of dust increases cloud droplet number concentration (CDNC) over major deserts (e.g., up to 20 % over the Sahara and the Taklimakan desert) and decreases CDNC over polluted areas (e.g., up to 10 % over southern Europe and 20 % over northeastern Asia). This leads to a global net decrease in CDNC by 11 %. The adsorption activation of insoluble aerosols and the mineral dust chemistry are shown to be equally important for the cloud droplet formation over the main deserts; for example, these effects increase CDNC by 20 % over the Sahara. Remote from deserts the application of adsorption theory is critically important since the increased water uptake by the large aged dust particles (i.e., due to the added hydrophilicity by the soluble coating) reduce the maximum supersaturation and thus cloud droplet formation from the relatively smaller anthropogenic particles (e.g., CDNC decreases by 10 % over southern Europe and 20 % over northeastern Asia by applying adsorption theory). The global average CDNC decreases by 10 % by considering adsorption activation, while changes are negligible when accounting for the mineral dust chemistry. Sensitivity simulations indicate that CDNC is also sensitive to the mineral dust mass and inherent hydrophilicity, and not to the chemical composition of the emitted dust.

Short summary
The importance of mineral dust for cloud droplet formation is studied by considering the adsorption activation of insoluble dust particles and the thermodynamic interactions between mineral cations and inorganic anions. This study demonstrates that a comprehensive treatment of the CCN activity of mineral dust and its chemical and thermodynamic interactions with inorganic species by chemistry climate models is important to realistically account for aerosol–chemistry–cloud–climate interaction.
Final-revised paper