Cloud chemistry measurements and estimates of acidic deposition on an above cloudbase coniferous forest

V. K. Saxena, N. H. Lin

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93 Scopus citations


The wet, dry and cloud water deposition of acidic substances on the forest canopy are considered as major mechanisms for pollutant induced forest decline at high elevations. Direct cloud capture plays a predominant role of intercepting acidic substances in above cloud-base forests. We conducted a field study at Mt. Mitchell, North Carolina (35°44′05″N, 82°17′15″W; 2038 m MSL)-the highest peak in the eastern U.S.-during May-September 1986 and 1987 in order to analyze the chemistry of clouds in which the red spruce and Fraser fir stands stay immersed. It was found that Mt. Mitchell was exposed to cloud episodes 71% of summer days, the cloud immersion time being 28% for 1986 (a record drought summer in southeastern U.S.) and 41% for 1987. Sulfate, NO3-, NH4+ and H+ ions were found to be the major constituents of the cloud water, which was collected atop a 16.5 m tall meteorological tower situated among 6-7 m tall Fraser fir trees. The initiation of precipitation in clouds invariably diluted the cloud water acidity. The cloud water pH during short episodes (8 h duration or less), which resulted from the orographic lifting mechanisms, was substantially lower than that during long episodes, which were associated with meso-scale and synoptic-scale disturbances. Sulfate accounted for 65% acidity in cloud water, on the average, and contributed 2-3 times more than the NO3-. Inferential micrometeorological models were used to determine deposition of SO42- and NO3- on the forest canopy and the hydrological input due to direct cloud capture mechanism. The cloud water deposition ranged between 32 and 55 cm a-1 in contrast to the bulk precipitation which was about 130 cm a-1 as measured by an on-site NADP (National Atmospheric Deposition Program) collector. For S compounds, wet, dry and cloud water deposition accounted for 19%, 11% and 70%, respectively for 1986, and 16%, 8% and 76%, respectively for 1987. For N compounds, dry deposition contributed 35% and 23% for 1986 and 1987, respectively, whereas, cloud water deposition contributed 50% and 65% for 1986 and 1987, respectively. Our estimates are compared with the reported literature values for the other sites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-352
Number of pages24
JournalAtmospheric Environment Part A, General Topics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1990


  • cloud capture mechanism
  • cloud chemistry
  • cloud water acidity
  • coniferous forest
  • dry deposition
  • Wet deposition


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