Thermodynamics, Kinetics, and Microphysics of Clouds,

Vitaly I.
Judith A.
Cambridge U. Press
, 2014. $115.00 (782 pp.). ISBN 978-1-107-01603-3 Buy at Amazon

Thermodynamics, Kinetics, and Microphysics of Clouds, an ambitious text by Vitaly Khvorostyanov and Judith Curry, offers a timely update and extension of the indispensable Microphysics of Clouds and Precipitation (Springer, 1996) by Hans Pruppacher and James Klett. The new text is particularly notable for coherently merging a theoretical perspective derived from the Russian cloud-physics tradition with the more accessible Western tradition. At more than 700 pages, it is also comprehensive: Khvorostyanov and Curry have reviewed and synthesized much of the most influential cloud research that has been published through 2013.

The authors in this improbable collaboration come from unique backgrounds and somewhat controversial stations. Khvorostyanov, professor of physics at the Central Aerological Observatory in Moscow, has been a leader at the highest levels of Russian weather modification programs. Curry, a professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech, has garnered wide attention for her iconoclastic perspectives on climate change and climate modeling.

Despite the polemic aspects of some of the authors’ other work, this text is a thoroughly technical compendium, concerned with the detailed physics of clouds. The authors, whose prodigious experience is reflected in more than 400 peer-reviewed publications, have managed to provide a panoramic perspective on cloud physics, yet one that is filled with fine-grained detail.

The book begins with a discussion of cloud properties and how clouds are distributed globally. That is followed by definitions of fundamental microphysical cloud properties and a review of particle distributions that give rise to cloud-scale characteristics. Also included in the introductory section are formal mathematical definitions of size spectra, distribution types, and moments as typically used in atmospheric science. Those will be especially valuable to students.

The heart of the text begins with modern treatments of the thermodynamics of water and ice in the atmosphere. It includes essential updates to equations of state for ice and water and new parameterizations of vapor pressure, heat capacity, and latent heat. That thermodynamic foundation is followed by detailed chapters on the diffusional and coalescent growth equations for water, ice, and wet aerosols; more so, the authors include fast algorithmic adaptations of those equations that are suitable for numerical models.

The book also provides comprehensive chapters on both homogeneous and heterogeneous nucleation processes; in those chapters, model-ready adaptations of the nucleation parameterizations are presented in detail. Other topics covered in the remainder of the book include deliquescence and efflorescence of aerosols, particle terminal velocities, and size-spectra broadening by stochastic condensation in turbulent clouds. The text does not attempt to provide a guide to the extensive body of research on cloud electricity or cloud chemistry.

Khvorostyanov and Curry make a great effort to unify theoretical and analytical formulations with empirical results. That approach is a theme throughout the text, and one that sets their book apart from other cloud-physics texts. An exciting and challenging surprise also awaits the reader: Some of the authors’ own unpublished works are interwoven through the text. For example, Khvorostyanov and Curry propose that Bose–Einstein statistics could be adapted to describe atmospheric nucleation processes, and they present a new parameterization of heterogeneous ice nucleation. The inclusion of new, unreviewed work offers the possibility that some aspects of the text can move science forward significantly, but it also demands that readers carefully evaluate the novel aspects of the work, as they have not yet acquired the authoritative sheen of established science.

I highly recommend Thermodynamics, Kinetics, and Microphysics of Clouds for atmospheric science professionals and advanced students. Its combination of analytical rigor, up-to-date references, and equations adapted for modeling applications makes it a valuable resource for modelers and experimentalists in cloud physics and climate research. This important work will also challenge readers with its novel approach to the field and provide a fresh perspective that they have likely not encountered.

Nathan Magee is an associate professor of physics at the College of New Jersey. His research is in experimental cloud microphysics.