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Title: Microphysical Effects Determine Macrophysical Response for Aerosol Impacts on Deep Convective Clouds

Deep convective clouds (DCCs) play a crucial role in the general circulation and energy and hydrological cycle of our climate system. Anthropogenic and natural aerosol particles can influence DCCs through changes in cloud properties, precipitation regimes, and radiation balance. Modeling studies have reported both invigoration and suppression of DCCs by aerosols, but none has fully quantified aerosol impacts on convection life cycle and radiative forcing. By conducting multiple month-long cloud-resolving simulations with spectral-bin cloud microphysics that capture the observed macro- and micro-physical properties of summer convective clouds in the tropics and mid-latitudes, this study provides the first comprehensive look at how aerosols affect cloud cover, cloud top height (CTH), and radiative forcing. Observations validate these simulation results. We find that microphysical aerosol effects contribute predominantly to increased cloud cover and CTH by inducing larger amount of smaller but longer lasting ice particles in the stratiform/anvils of DCCs with dynamical aerosol effects contributing at most ~ 1/4 of the total increase of cloud cover. The overall effect is a radiative warming in the atmosphere (3 to 5 W m-2) with strong surface cooling (-5 to -8 W m-2). Herein we clearly identified mechanisms more important than and additional to the invigorationmore » effects hypothesized previously that explain the consistent signatures of increased cloud tops area and height by aerosols in DCCs revealed by observations.« less
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Journal Article
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Journal Name: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(48):E4581-E4590
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
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Country of Publication:
United States
aerosol; convective; clouds; microphysical; macrophysical