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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2020-36
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2020-36
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 23 Jan 2020

Submitted as: research article | 23 Jan 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Quantifying Cloud Adjustments and the Radiative Forcing due to Aerosol-Cloud Interactions in Satellite Observations of Warm Marine Clouds

Alyson Douglas1 and Tristan L'Ecuyer1,2 Alyson Douglas and Tristan L'Ecuyer
  • 1University of Wisconsin-Madison 1225 W. Dayton St Madison, WI, USA
  • 2Cooperative Institue for Meteorological and Satellite Studies 1225 W. Dayton St Madison, WI, USA

Abstract. Aerosol-cloud interactions and their resultant forcing remains one of the largest sources of uncertainty of future climate scenarios. The effective radiative forcing due to aerosol-cloud interactions (ERFaci) is a combination of two different effects, how aerosols modify cloud brightness (RFaci) and how cloud extent reacts to aerosol (CA). Using satellite observations of warm clouds from the NASA A-Train constellation from 2007 to 2010 along with MERRA-2 reanalysis and aerosol from the SPRINTARS model, we evaluate the ERFaci and its components, the RFaci and CA, while accounting for the liquid water path and local environment. We estimate the ERFaci to be −0.32 ± 0.16 W m−2. The RFaci dominates the ERFaci contributing 80 % (−0.21 ± 0.15 W m−2), while the CA enhances this cooling by 20 % (−0.05 ± 0.03 W m−2). Both the RFaci and CA vary in magnitude and sign regionally, and can lead to opposite, negating effects under certain environmental conditions. Without considering the two terms separately, and without constraining cloud-environment interactions, weak regional ERFaci signals may be erroneously attributed to buffering or a damped susceptibility to aerosol.

Alyson Douglas and Tristan L'Ecuyer

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Alyson Douglas and Tristan L'Ecuyer

Alyson Douglas and Tristan L'Ecuyer

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Latest update: 25 Feb 2020
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Short summary
Aerosols, or small, suspended droplets in the atmosphere, are released from anthropogenic activity and interact with warm clouds leading to changes in the clouds brightness and size. Our study evaluates how aerosols alter warm clouds and their ability to cool the Earth's surface. We find aerosols make clouds brighter and grow larger in the atmosphere, however the cooling effect due to whiter, brighter clouds is 5× the cooling due to an increased extent.
Aerosols, or small, suspended droplets in the atmosphere, are released from anthropogenic...
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