- A mechanism of formation of small-scale inhomogeneities in spatial distributions of aerosols and droplets associated with clustering instability in the atmospheric turbulent flow is discussed. The particle clustering is a consequence of a spontaneous breakdown of their homogeneous space distribution due to the clustering instability, and is caused by a combined effect of the particle inertia and a finite correlation time of the turbulent velocity field. In this paper a theoretical approach proposed in Elperin et al. (2002) Phys Rev E 66:036302 is further developed and applied to investigate the mechanisms of formation of small-scale aerosol inhomogeneities in the atmospheric turbulent flow. The theory of the particle clustering instability is extended to the case when the particle Stokes time is larger than the Kolmogorov time scale, but is much smaller than the correlation time at the integral scale of turbulence. We determined the criterion of the clustering instability for the Stokes number larger than 1. We discussed applications of the analyzed effects to the dynamics of aerosols and droplets in the atmospheric turbulent flow.