Articles | Volume 18, issue 1
Research article
10 Jan 2018
Research article |  | 10 Jan 2018

Uncertainty in aerosol hygroscopicity resulting from semi-volatile organic compounds

Olivia Goulden, Matthew Crooks, and Paul Connolly

Abstract. We present a novel method of exploring the effect of uncertainties in aerosol properties on cloud droplet number using existing cloud droplet activation parameterisations. Aerosol properties of a single involatile particle mode are randomly sampled within an uncertainty range and resulting maximum supersaturations and critical diameters calculated using the cloud droplet activation scheme. Hygroscopicity parameters are subsequently derived and the values of the mean and uncertainty are found to be comparable to experimental observations. A recently proposed cloud droplet activation scheme that includes the effects of co-condensation of semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) onto a single lognormal mode of involatile particles is also considered. In addition to the uncertainties associated with the involatile particles, concentrations, volatility distributions and chemical composition of the SVOCs are randomly sampled and hygroscopicity parameters are derived using the cloud droplet activation scheme. The inclusion of SVOCs is found to have a significant effect on the hygroscopicity and contributes a large uncertainty. For non-volatile particles that are effective cloud condensation nuclei, the co-condensation of SVOCs reduces their actual hygroscopicity by approximately 25 %. A new concept of an effective hygroscopicity parameter is introduced that can computationally efficiently simulate the effect of SVOCs on cloud droplet number concentration without direct modelling of the organic compounds. These effective hygroscopicities can be as much as a factor of 2 higher than those of the non-volatile particles onto which the volatile organic compounds condense.

Short summary
The formation of cloud from the condensation of water vapour in the atmosphere on aerosol particles is highly dependent of the chemical properties of the particles. The chemistry is further complicated by the presence of condensible gases in the atmosphere other than water. We provide several methods of including the complicated chemical properties of the aerosol particles and condensing gases into single parameter descriptions, which are suitable for inclusion in large-scale models.
Final-revised paper