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Discussion papers
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 17 Oct 2019

Submitted as: research article | 17 Oct 2019

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

Deconvolution of Boundary Layer Depth and Aerosol Constraints on Cloud Water Path in Subtropical Stratocumuli

Anna Possner1, Ryan Eastman2, Frida Bender3, and Franziska Glassmeier4 Anna Possner et al.
  • 1Institute for Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, Goethe University,Frankfurt/Main, Germany
  • 2Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, USA
  • 3Department of Meteorology and Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 4Department of Environmental Sciences,Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands

Abstract. The liquid water path (LWP) adjustment due to aerosol-cloud interactions in marine stratocumuli remains a considerable source of uncertainty for climate sensitivity estimates. An unequivocal attribution of LWP changes to changes in aerosol concentration from climatology remains difficult due to the considerable covariance between meteorological conditions alongside changes in aerosol concentrations. Here, we show that LWP susceptibility in marine boundary layers (BLs) inferred from climatological relationships, triples in magnitude from −0.1 to −0.33 as the BL deepens.

We further find deep BLs to be underrepresented in pollution track, process modelling and in-situ studies of aerosol-cloud interactions in marine stratocumuli. Susceptibility estimates based on these approaches are skewed towards shallow BLs of moderate LWP susceptibility. Therefore, extrapolating LWP susceptibility estimates from shallow BLs to the entire cloud climatology, may underestimate the true LWP adjustment within sub-tropical stratocumuli, and thus overestimate the effective aerosol radiative forcing in this region.

Meanwhile, LWP susceptibility estimates inferred from climatology in deep BLs are still poorly constrained. While susceptibility estimates in shallow BLs are found to be consistent with process modelling studies, they are overestimated as compared to pollution track estimates.

Anna Possner et al.
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Anna Possner et al.
Anna Possner et al.
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Short summary
Cloud water content and the number of droplets inside clouds covary with boundary layer depth. This covariation may amplify the change in water content due to a change in droplet number inferred from long-term observations. Taking this into account shows that the change in water content for increased droplet number in observations and high-resolution simulations agrees in shallow boundary layers. Meanwhile deep boundary layers are poorly constrained by process-scale simulations and observations.
Cloud water content and the number of droplets inside clouds covary with boundary layer depth....