The Variability of Cloud Condensation Nuclei and Cloud Droplet Populations in Convective Clouds over the High Plains: How often are Continental Clouds Continental?


  • Andrew Detwiler Institute of Atmospheric Sciences South Dakota School of Mines and Technology Rapid City, SD


Observations and cloud microphysical modelling suggest that hygroscopic cloud seeding can be used to enhance precipitation from continental convective clouds. Model simulations demonstrate that the effect of such treatment varies with cloud microphysical characteristics. Significant enhancement is predicted for clouds with continental cloud droplet spectra, i.e. droplet concentrations on the order of 1000 cm^-3. The effect on maritime clouds with droplet concentrations of the order of a few 100’s cm^3 or less is predicted to be much smaller. A survey of past studies of aerosols is presented along with a newly-assembled collection of observations of convective cloud droplet concentrations over the High Plains of North America. It is shown that while a majority of clouds are indeed microphysically continental, a significant fraction of clouds in this region have microphysical characteristics that are maritime or intermediate between maritime and truly continental. Practitioners of hygroscopic seeding in this region need to monitor aerosol and cloud characteristics and target microphysically continental clouds if they want to optimize the effects of their seeding. Furthermore, indiscriminant hygroscopic seeding of clouds or an evaluation of results without regard to the maritime or continental character of the target and control clouds could lead to inconclusive and/or spurious results.




Scientific Papers