Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 13, 23719-23755, 2013
© Author(s) 2013. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Review Status
This discussion paper has been under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP). Please refer to the corresponding final paper in ACP.
Assessment of the effect of air pollution controls on trends in shortwave radiation over the United States from 1995 through 2010 from multiple observation networks
C.-M. Gan1, J. Pleim1, R. Mathur1, C. Hogrefe1, C. N. Long2, J. Xing1, S. Roselle1, and C. Wei1
1Atmospheric Modeling and Analysis Division, National Exposure Research Laboratory, US Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA
2Climate Physics Group, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington, USA

Abstract. Long term datasets of all-sky and clear-sky downwelling shortwave (SW) radiation, cloud cover fraction and aerosol optical depth (AOD) are analyzed together with surface concentration from several networks (e.g. SURFRAD, CASTNET, IMPROVE and ARM) in the United States (US). Seven states with varying climatology are selected to better understand the effects of aerosols and clouds on SW radiation. This analysis aims to assess the effects of reductions in anthropogenic aerosol burden resulting from substantial reductions in emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) over the past 16 yr across the US on trends in SW radiation. The SO2 and NOx emission data show decreasing trends from 1995 to 2010 which indirectly validates the effects of the Clean Air Act (CAA) in the US. Meanwhile, the total column AOD and surface total PM2.5 observations also show decreasing trends in the eastern US but slightly increasing trends in the western US. Moreover, measured surface concentrations of several other pollutants (i.e. SO2, SO4 and NOx) have the same behavior as the AOD and total PM2.5. First, all-sky downwelling SW radiation is assessed together with the cloud cover. Results of this analysis show strong increasing trends in all-sky downwelling SW radiation with decreasing trends in cloud cover. However, since observations of both all-sky direct and diffuse SW radiation are increasing, there may be other factors contributing to the radiation trends in addition to the decreasing trends in overall cloud cover. To investigate the role of direct radiative effects of aerosols, clear-sky downwelling radiation is analyzed so that cloud effects are eliminated. However, similar increasing trends in clear-sky direct and diffuse SW radiation are observed. While significantly decreasing trends in AOD and surface concentration along with increasing SW radiation (both all-sky and clear-sky) in the eastern US during 1995–2010 imply the occurrence of direct aerosol mediated "brightening", the increasing trends of both all-sky and clear sky diffuse SW radiation contradicts this conclusion since diffuse radiation would be expected to decrease as aerosols direct effects decrease. After investigating several confounding factors, the increasing trend in diffuse SW may be due to more high-level cirrus from increasing air traffic over the US. In contrast to the eastern US, radiation observations in the western US do not show any indication of "brightening" which is consistent with the observations (e.g. AOD, PM2.5 and surface concentration) that show the aerosol loading increasing slightly. This outcome is not unexpected because the CAA controls were mainly aimed at reducing air pollutants emission in the eastern US and air pollutant level in the western US are much lower.

Citation: Gan, C.-M., Pleim, J., Mathur, R., Hogrefe, C., Long, C. N., Xing, J., Roselle, S., and Wei, C.: Assessment of the effect of air pollution controls on trends in shortwave radiation over the United States from 1995 through 2010 from multiple observation networks, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 13, 23719-23755, doi:10.5194/acpd-13-23719-2013, 2013.
Search ACPD
Discussion Paper
    Final Revised Paper