U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

New Method for Determining Cloud Droplet Size
Published: November 06, 2012
Posted: January 24, 2013

Cloud droplet size is an important variable for understanding the impact of clouds on Earth’s radiation budget because different size droplets reflect different amounts of sunlight. Cloud droplet size can be impacted by meteorology, cloud type, aerosol concentration, and other factors, so accurate observations of cloud droplet size are needed to evaluate the ability of models to reproduce the correct droplet size under different conditions. U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) scientists have developed a new method of determining cloud droplet size and liquid water path that uses zenith radiance measurements from single ground-based instruments at DOE Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET) sites. The new retrieval has an accuracy of 11% to 22%, depending on the cloud conditions, and compares favorably to methods combining multiple instruments or using more expensive instruments such as cloud radars.  By using only a single instrument, the new retrieval can be implemented at more measurement sites worldwide, providing more information for climate models.

Reference: Chiu, J. C., A. Marshak, C. H. Huang, T. Varnai, R. J. Hogan, D. M. Giles, B. N. Holben, E. J. O’Connor, Y. Knyaikhin, and W. J. Wiscombe. 2012. “Cloud Droplet Size and Liquid Water Path Retrievals from Zenith Radiance Measurements: Examples from the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program and the Aerosol Robotic Network,” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 12, 10313–329. DOI: 10.5194/acp-12-10313-2012. (Reference link)

Contact: Wanda Ferrell, SC-23.1, (301) 903-0043, Sally McFarlane, SC-23.1, (301) 903-0943, Ashley Williamson, SC-23.1, (301) 903-3120
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Atmospheric System Research
  • Facility: DOE ARM User Facility

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

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