We used a one-dimensional (1-D) cloud parcel model to assess the impact of biomass-burning aerosol on cloud properties in the Amazon Basin and to identify the physical and chemical properties of the aerosol that influence droplet growth. Cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) measurements were performed between 0.15% and 1.5% supersaturation at ground-based sites in the states of Amazonas and Rondônia, Brazil during several field campaigns in 1998 and 1999 as part of the Large-Scale Biosphere Atmosphere (LBA) Experiment in Amazonia. CCN concentrations measured during the wet season were low and resembled concentrations more typical of marine conditions than most continental sites. During the dry season, smoke aerosol from biomass burning dramatically increased CCN concentrations. The modification of cloud properties, such as cloud droplet effective radius and maximum supersaturation, is most sensitive at low CCN concentrations. Hence, we could expect larger interannual variation of cloud properties during the wet season that the dry season. We found that differences between CCN spectra from forested and deforested regions during the wet season are modest and result in modifications of cloud properties that are small compared to those between wet and dry seasons. Our study suggests that the differences in surface albedo, rather than cloud albedo, between forested and deforested regions may dominate the impact of deforestation on the hydrological cycle and convective activity during the wet season. During the dry season, on the other hand, cloud droplet concentrations may increase by up to 7 times, which leads to a model-predicted decrease in cloud effective radius by a factor of 2. This could imply a maximum indirect radiative forcing due to aerosol as high as ca. -27 W m-2 for a nonabsorbing cloud. Light-absorbing substances in smoke darken the Amazonian clouds and reduce the net radiative forcing, and a comparison of the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) analysis and our modeling studies suggests that absorption of sunlight due to smoke aerosol may compensate for about half of the maximum aerosol effect. Sensitivity tests show that complete characterization of the aerosol is necessary when kinetic growth limitations become important. Subtle differences in the chemical and physical makeup are shown to be particularly influential in the activation and growth behavior of the aerosol. Knowledge of the CCN spectrum alone is not sufficient to fully capture the climatic influence of biomass burning.