Laboratory Studies of the Cloud Droplet Activation Properties and Corresponding Chemistry of Saline Playa Dust

Cassandra J. Gaston, Kerri A. Pratt, Kaitlyn J. Suski, Nathaniel W. May, Thomas E. Gill, Kimberly A. Prather

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Playas emit large quantities of dust that can facilitate the activation of cloud droplets. Despite the potential importance of playa dusts for cloud formation, most climate models assume that all dust is nonhygroscopic; however, measurements are needed to clarify the role of dusts in aerosol-cloud interactions. Here, we report measurements of CCN activation from playa dusts and parameterize these results in terms of both κ-Köhler theory and adsorption activation theory for inclusion in atmospheric models. κ ranged from 0.002 ± 0.001 to 0.818 ± 0.094, whereas Frankel-Halsey-Hill (FHH) adsorption parameters of AFHH = 2.20 ± 0.60 and BFHH = 1.24 ± 0.14 described the water uptake properties of the dusts. Measurements made using aerosol time-of-flight mass spectrometry (ATOFMS) revealed the presence of halite, sodium sulfates, and sodium carbonates that were strongly correlated with κ underscoring the role that mineralogy, including salts, plays in water uptake by dust. Predictions of κ made using bulk chemical techniques generally showed good agreement with measured values. However, several samples were poorly predicted suggesting that chemical heterogeneities as a function of size or chemically distinct particle surfaces can determine the hygroscopicity of playa dusts. Our results further demonstrate the importance of dust in aerosol-cloud interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1348-1356
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 7 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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