1University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
2Environment Canada, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
3Environment Canada, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada
4York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Abstract. Organic matter represents an important fraction of the fine particle aerosol, yet our knowledge of the roles of organics in the activation of aerosol particles into cloud droplets is poor. A cloud condensation nucleus (CCN) counter is used to examine the relative growth rates of cloud droplets for case studies from field measurements on the North Pacific Ocean and in a coniferous forest. A model of the condensational growth of water droplets, on particles dissolving according to their solubility in water, is used to simulate the initial scattering of the droplets as they grow in the CCN counter. Simulations of the growth rates of fine particles sampled in the marine boundary layer of the North Pacific Ocean indicate that the main influence of the marine organic material on the water uptake rate is from its effect on the size distribution of the sulphate. Simulations of the observations of water uptake on biogenic organic aerosol particles sampled in a coniferous forest indicate an impact of the organic on the water uptake rates, but one that is still smaller than that of pure sulphate. The solubility of the organic becomes an important factor in determining the water uptake as the organic mass increases relative to sulphate. The values of the organic component of the hygroscopicity parameter κ that describes the CCN activity were found to be negligible for the marine particles and 0.02–0.05 for the forest particles.