1LASG, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
2Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany
3LAPC, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
4Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, USA
Abstract. Tropospheric aerosol size distributions are simulated by three online global models that employ exactly the same modal approach but differ in many aspects such as model meteorology, natural aerosol emissions, sulfur chemistry, and the parameterization of deposition processes. The main purpose of this study is to identify where the largest inter-model discrepancies occur and what the main reasons are.
The number concentrations of different aerosol size ranges are compared among the three models and against observations. Overall all the three models can capture the basic features of the observed aerosol number spatial distributions. The magnitude of the number concentration of each mode is consistent among the three models. Quantitative differences are also clearly detectable. For the soluble and insoluble coarse mode and accumulation mode, inter-model discrepancies mainly result from differences in the sea salt and dust emissions, as well as the different strengths of the convective transport in the meteorological models. For the nucleation mode and the soluble Aitken mode, the spread of the model results is largest in the tropics and in the middle and upper troposphere. Diagnostics and sensitivity experiments suggest that this large spread is closely related to the sulfur cycle in the models, which is strongly affected by the choice of sulfur chemistry scheme, its coupling with the convective transport and wet deposition calculation, and the related meteorological fields such as cloud cover, cloud water content, and precipitation.
The aerosol size distributions simulated by the three models are compared to observations in the boundary layer. The characteristic shape and magnitude of the distribution functions are reasonably reproduced in typical conditions (i.e., clean, polluted and transition areas). Biases in the mode parameters over the remote oceans and the China adjacent seas are probably caused by the fixed mode variance in the mathematical formulations used in the modal approach in the three models, as well as some of the prescribed size distribution parameters of the natural and anthropogenic emissions.