1Earth System Research Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, CO, USA
2Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
3National Center for Atmospheric Research, Research Aviation Facility, Broomfield, CO, USA
4National Institute of Standards and Technology, Boulder, CO, USA
Abstract. Laboratory calibrations of the Cloud Droplet Probe (CDP) sample area and droplet sizing are performed using water droplets of known size, generated at a known rate. Although calibrations with PSL and glass beads were consistent with theoretical instrument response, liquid water droplet calibrations were not, and necessitated a 2 μm shift in the manufacturer's calibration. We show that much of this response shift may be attributable to a misalignment of the optics relative to the axis of the laser beam. Comparison with an independent measure of liquid water content (LWC) during in-flight operation suggests much greater biases in the droplet size and/or droplet concentration measured by the CDP than would be expected based on the laboratory calibrations. Since the bias in CDP-LWC is strongly concentration dependent, we hypothesize that this discrepancy is a result of coincidence, when two or more droplets pass through the CDP laser beam within a very short time. The coincidence error, most frequently resulting from the passage of one droplet outside and one inside the instrument sample area at the same time, is evaluated in terms of an "extended sample area" (SAE), the area in which individual droplets can affect the sizing detector without necessarily registering on the qualifier. SAE is calibrated with standardized water droplets, and used in a Monte-Carlo simulation to estimate the effect of coincidence on the measured droplet size distributions. The simulations show that extended coincidence errors are important for the CDP at droplet concentrations even as low as 200 cm−3, and these errors are necessary to explain the trend between calculated and measured LWC observed in liquid and mixed-phase clouds during the Aerosol, Radiation and Cloud Processes Affecting Arctic Climate (ARCPAC) study. We estimate from the simulations that 60% oversizing error and 50% undercounting error can occur at droplet concentrations exceeding 400 cm−3. Modification of the optical design of the CDP is currently being explored in an effort to reduce this coincidence bias.