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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2018-979
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2018-979
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 13 Nov 2018

Research article | 13 Nov 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Impact of light-absorbing particles on snow albedo darkening and associated radiative forcing over High Mountain Asia: High resolution WRF-Chem modeling and new satellite observations

Chandan Sarangi1, Yun Qian1, Karl Rittger2, Kat J. Bormann3, Ying Liu1, Hailong Wang1, Hui Wan1, Guangxing Lin1, and Thomas H. Painter3 Chandan Sarangi et al.
  • 1Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, USA
  • 2Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 3Jet Propuls ion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA , USA

Abstract. Light-absorbing particles (LAPs), mainly dust and black carbon, can significantly impact snowmelt and regional water availability over High Mountain Asia (HMA). In this study, for the first time, online aerosol-snow interactions enabled and a fully coupled chemistry Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF-Chem) regional model is used to simulate LAP-induced radiative forcing on snow surfaces in HMA at relatively high spatial resolution (12 km, WRF-HR) than previous studies. Simulated macro- and micro-physical properties of the snowpack and LAP-induced snow darkening are evaluated against new spatially and temporally complete datasets of snow covered area, grain size, and impurities-induced albedo reduction over HMA. A WRF-Chem quasi-global simulation with the same configuration as WRF-HR but a coarser spatial resolution (1 degree, WRF-CR) is also used to illustrate the impact of spatial resolution on simulations of snow properties and aerosol distribution over HMA. Due to a more realistic representation of terrain slopes over HMA, the higher resolution model (WRF-HR) shows significantly better performance in simulating snow area cover, duration of snow cover, snow albedo and snow grain size over HMA, as well as an evidently better atmospheric aerosol loading and mean LAPs concentration in snow. However, the differences in albedo reduction from model and satellite retrievals is large during winter due to associated overestimation in simulated snow fraction. It is noteworthy that Himalayan snow cover have high magnitudes of LAP-induced snow albedo reduction (4–8 %) in summer (both from WRF-HR and satellite estimates), which, induces a snow-mediated radiative forcing of ∼ 30–50 W/m2. As a result, Himalayas (specifically western Himalayas) hold the most vulnerable glaciers and mountain snowpack to the LAP-induced snow darkening effect within HMA. In summary, coarse spatial resolution and absence of snow-aerosol interactions over Himalaya cryosphere will result in significant underestimation of aerosol effect on snow melting and regional hydroclimate.

Chandan Sarangi et al.
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