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Title: Evaluating Clouds, Aerosols, and their Interactions in Three Global Climate Models using COSP and Satellite Observations

Accurately representing aerosol-cloud interactions in global climate models is challenging. As parameterizations evolve, it is important to evaluate their performance with appropriate use of observations. In this work we compare aerosols, clouds, and their interactions in three climate models (AM3, CAM5, ModelE) to MODIS satellite observations. Modeled cloud properties were diagnosed using the CFMIP Observations Simulator Package (COSP). Cloud droplet number concentrations (N) were derived using the same algorithm for both satellite-simulated model values and observations. We find that aerosol optical depth tau simulated by models is similar to observations. For N, AM3 and CAM5 capture the observed spatial pattern of higher values in near-coast versus remote ocean regions, though modeled values in general are higher than observed. In contrast, ModelE simulates lower N in most near-coast versus remote regions. Aerosol- cloud interactions were computed as the sensitivity of N to tau for marine liquid clouds off the coasts of South Africa and Eastern Asia where aerosol pollution varies in time. AM3 and CAM5 are in most cases more sensitive than observations, while the sensitivity for ModelE is statistically insignificant. This widely used sensitivity could be subject to misinterpretation due to the confounding influence of meteorology on both aerosols andmore » clouds. A simple framework for assessing the N – tau sensitivity at constant meteorology illustrates that observed sensitivity can change from positive to statistically insignificant when including the confounding influence of relative humidity. Satellite simulated values of N were compared to standard model output and found to be higher with a bias of 83 cm-3.« less
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Journal Article
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Journal Name: Journal of Geophysical Research. D. (Atmospheres), 119(18):10,876–10,901
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US)
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Country of Publication:
United States
clouds; aerosols; global climate models; COSP; satellite observations