Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 11, 2773-2842, 2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed
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This discussion paper has been under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP). Please refer to the corresponding final paper in ACP.
Theoretical basis for convective invigoration due to increased aerosol concentration
Z. J. Lebo1 and J. H. Seinfeld1,2
1Environmental Science and Engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, 91125, CA, USA
2Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, 91125, CA, USA

Abstract. The potential effects of increased aerosol loading on the development of deep convective clouds and resulting precipitation amounts are studied by employing the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model as a detailed high-resolution cloud resolving model (CRM) with both detailed bulk and bin microphysics schemes. The bulk microphysics scheme incorporates a physically based parameterization of cloud droplet activation as well as homogeneous and heterogeneous freezing in order to explicitly resolve the possible aerosol-induced effects on the cloud microphysics. These parameterizations allow one to segregate the effects of an increase in the aerosol number concentration into enhanced cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) and/or ice nuclei (IN) concentrations using bulk microphysics. The bin microphysics scheme, with its explicit calculations of cloud particle collisions, is shown to better predict cumulative precipitation. Increases in the CCN number concentration may not have a monotonic influence on the cumulative precipitation resulting from deep convective clouds. We demonstrate that the aerosol-induced effect is controlled by the balance between latent heating and the increase in condensed water aloft, each having opposing effects on buoyancy. It is also shown that under polluted conditions and in relatively dry environments, increases in the CCN number concentration reduce the cumulative precipitation due to the competition between the sedimentation and evaporation/sublimation timescales. The effect of an increase in the IN number concentration on the dynamics of deep convective clouds is small, but may act to suppress precipitation.

A comparison of the predictions using the bin and bulk microphysics schemes demonstrate a significant difference between the predicted precipitation and the influence of aerosol perturbations on updraft velocity within the convective core. The bulk microphysics scheme is shown to be unable to capture the changes in latent heating that occur as a result of changes in the CCN number concentration, while the bin microphysics scheme demonstrates significant increases in the latent heating aloft with increasing CCN number concentration. This suggests that a detailed two-bulk microphysics scheme, which is more computationally efficient than bin microphysics schemes, may not be sufficient, even when coupled to a detailed activation scheme, to predict small changes that result from perturbations in aerosol loading.

Citation: Lebo, Z. J. and Seinfeld, J. H.: Theoretical basis for convective invigoration due to increased aerosol concentration, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 11, 2773-2842, doi:10.5194/acpd-11-2773-2011, 2011.
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