Direct eddy-covariance measurements of aerosol number fluxes obtained during the 2007 CHATS field experiment in Dixon, California, USA are compared with relaxed eddy accumulation simulations using temperature and water vapour concentration as proxy scalars. After a brief discussion of the limited time response of the aerosol measurement, the applicability of temperature and water vapour concentration as proxy scalars for aerosol number concentration is investigated by evaluating scalar and spectral correlation coefficients as simple measures of scalar similarity. In addition, the proportionality factor b, which compensates for the use of a constant sampling flow in relaxed eddy accumulation, is derived from the time series of aerosol number, temperature and water vapour, and its variability is analyzed. The reduction of the b factor due to application of a deadband, i.e. the rejection of data when the vertical wind speed is close to zero, is evaluated for all three studied scalars, and compared with published functional relationships. In this study, using temperature or water vapour as proxy scalars for aerosol number shows no advantage over the use of a constant b factor. Thus, it is suggested to apply a deadband HREA = w′/σw = 0.6 to 0.8 (where w′ is the vertical velocity fluctuation and σw is its standard deviation), to use a theoretical b factor based on a parameterization that includes a stability dependence, and to calculate the deadband effect according to a derived relation for aerosol relaxed eddy accumulation. © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008.