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Aerosols play important roles in modulations of cloud properties and hydrological cycle by decreasing the size of cloud droplets with the increase of aerosols under the condition of fixed liquid water path, which is known as the first aerosol indirect effect or Twomey-effect or microphysical effect. Using high-quality aerosol data from surface observations and statistically decoupling the influence of meteorological factors, we show that highly loaded aerosols can counter this microphysical effect through the radiative effect to result both the decrease and increase of cloud droplet size depending on liquid water path in water clouds. The radiative effect due to increased aerosols reduces the moisture content, but increases the atmospheric stability at higher altitudes, generating conditions favorable for cloud top entrainment and cloud droplet coalescence. Such radiatively driven cloud droplet coalescence process is relatively stronger in thicker clouds to counter relatively weaker microphysical effect, resulting the increase of cloud droplet size with the increase of aerosol loading; and vice-versa in thinner clouds. Overall, the study suggests the prevalence of both negative and positive relationships between cloud droplet size and aerosol loading in highly polluted regions.


This article was originally published in Scientific Reports, volume 12, in 2022.


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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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