Correlation between cloud condensation nuclei concentration and aerosol optical thickness in remote and polluted regions
- Biogeochemistry Department, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany
Abstract. A large number of published and unpublished measurements of cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) concentrations and aerosol optical thickness (AOT) measurements have been analyzed. AOT measurements were obtained mostly from the AERONET network, and selected to be collocated as closely as possible to the CCN investigations. In remote marine regions, CCN0.4 (CCN at a supersaturation of 0.4%) are around 110 cm−3 and the mean AOT500 (AOT at 500 nm) is 0.057. Over remote continental areas, CCN are almost twice as abundant, while the mean AOT500 is ca. 0.075. (Sites dominated by desert dust plumes were excluded from this analysis.) Some, or maybe even most of this difference must be because even remote continental sites are in closer proximity to pollution sources than remote marine sites. This suggests that the difference between marine and continental levels must have been smaller before the advent of anthropogenic pollution.
Over polluted marine and continental regions, the CCN concentrations are about one order of magnitude higher than over their remote counterparts, while AOT is about five times higher over polluted than over clean regions. The average CCN concentrations from all studies show a remarkable correlation to the corresponding AOT values, which can be expressed as a power law. This can be very useful for the parameterization of CCN concentrations in modeling studies, as it provides an easily measured proxy for this variable, which is difficult to measure directly. It also implies that, at least at large scales, the radiative and microphysical effects of aerosols on cloud physics are correlated and not free to vary fully independently. While the observed strong empirical correlation is remarkable, it must still be noted that there is about a factor-of-four range of CCN concentrations at a given AOT, and that there remains considerable room for improvement in remote sensing techniques for CCN abundance.