One of the greatest sources of uncertainty in the science of anthropogenic climate change is from aerosol-cloud interactions. The activation of aerosols into cloud droplets is a direct microphysical linkage between aerosols and clouds; parameterizations of this process link aerosol with cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) and the resulting indirect effects. Small differences between parameterizations can have a large impact on the spatiotemporal distributions of activated aerosols and the resulting cloud properties. In this work, we incorporate a series of aerosol activation schemes into the Community Atmosphere Model version 5.1.1 within the Community Earth System Model version 1.0.5 (CESM/CAM5) which include factors such as insoluble aerosol adsorption and giant cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) activation kinetics to understand their individual impacts on global-scale cloud droplet number concentration (CDNC). Compared to the existing activation scheme in CESM/CAM5, this series of activation schemes increase the computation time by ∼10% but leads to predicted CDNC in better agreement with satellite-derived/in situ values in many regions with high CDNC but in worse agreement for some regions with low CDNC. Large percentage changes in predicted CDNC occur over desert and oceanic regions, owing to the enhanced activation of dust from insoluble aerosol adsorption and reduced activation of sea spray aerosol after accounting for giant CCN activation kinetics. Comparison of CESM/CAM5 predictions against satellite-derived cloud optical thickness and liquid water path shows that the updated activation schemes generally improve the low biases. Globally, the incorporation of all updated schemes leads to an average increase in column CDNC of 150% and an increase (more negative) in shortwave cloud forcing of 12%. With the improvement of model-predicted CDNCs and better agreement with most satellite-derived cloud properties in many regions, the inclusion of these aerosol activation processes should result in better predictions of radiative forcing from aerosol-cloud interactions. © Author(s) 2014. CC Attribution 3.0 License.