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Title: Improving our fundamental understanding of the role of aerosol-cloud interactions in the climate system

The effect of an increase in atmospheric aerosol concentrations on the distribution and radiative properties of Earth’s clouds is the most uncertain component of the overall global radiative forcing from pre-industrial time. General Circulation Models (GCMs) are the tool for predicting future climate, but the treatment of aerosols, clouds, and aerosol-cloud radiative effects carries large uncertainties that directly affect GCM predictions, such as climate sensitivity. Predictions are hampered by the large range of scales of interaction between various components that need to be captured. Observation systems (remote sensing, in situ) are increasingly being used to constrain predictions but significant challenges exist, to some extent because of the large range of scales and the fact that the various measuring systems tend to address different scales. Fine-scale models represent clouds, aerosols, and aerosol-cloud interactions with high fidelity but do not include interactions with the larger scale and are therefore limited from a climatic point of view. Lastly, we suggest strategies for improving estimates of aerosol-cloud relationships in climate models, for new remote sensing and in situ measurements, and for quantifying and reducing model uncertainty.
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  1. California Inst. of Technology (CalTech), Pasadena, CA (United States)
  2. Univ. of Washington, Seattle, WA (United States)
  3. Univ. of Leeds, Leeds (United Kingdom)
  4. Univ. of Manchester, Manchester (United Kingdom)
  5. Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins, CO (United States)
  6. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Washington, D.C. (United States)
  7. National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, Boulder, CO (United States)
  8. Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
  9. Univ. of California, Irvine, CA (United States)
  10. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Greenbelt, MD (United States)
  11. Univ. of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA (United States)
  12. Georgia Inst. of Technology, Atlanta, GA (United States); Institute of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Petras (Greece); National Observatory of Athens, Palea-Pendeli (Greece)
  13. Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI (United States)
  14. Princeton Univ. and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Princeton, NJ (United States)
  15. The Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem, Jerusalem (Israel)
  16. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Pasadena, CA (United States)
Publication Date:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 0027-8424; KP1703020
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 113; Journal Issue: 21; Journal ID: ISSN 0027-8424
National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC (United States)
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; climate; aerosol-cloud effects; general circulation models; radiative forcing; satellite observations
OSTI Identifier: