Acceleration of raindrop formation due to the tangling-clustering instability in a turbulent stratified atmosphere Academic Article uri icon


  • Condensation of water vapor on active cloud condensation nuclei produces micron-size water droplets. To form rain, they must grow rapidly into at least 50-100 micron-size droplets. Observations show that this process takes only 15-20 minutes. The unexplained physical mechanism of such fast growth, is crucial for understanding and modeling of rain, and known as "condensation-coalescence bottleneck in rain formation". We show that the recently discovered phenomenon of the tangling clustering instability of small droplets in temperature-stratified turbulence (Phys. Fluids 25, 085104, 2013) results in the formation of droplet clusters with drastically increased droplet number densities and strong five-orders-of-magnitude enhancement of the collision-coalescence rate inside the clusters. The mechanism of tangling clustering instability in the temperature-stratified turbulence is much more effective than the previously considered pure inertial clustering caused by the centrifugal effect of turbulent vortices. Our analysis of the droplet growth explains the observed fast growth of cloud droplets from the initial 1 micron-size droplets to 40-50 micron-size droplets within 15-20 minutes.

publication date

  • January 1, 2015