Aerosol indirect effects on summer precipitation in a regional climate model for the Euro-Mediterranean region

Da Silva, Nicolas; Mailler, Sylvain; Drobinski, Philippe

Aerosols affect atmospheric dynamics through their direct and semi-direct effects as well as through their effects on cloud microphysics (indirect effects). The present study investigates the indirect effects of aerosols on summer precipitation in the Euro-Mediterranean region, which is located at the crossroads of air masses carrying both natural and anthropogenic aerosols. While it is difficult to disentangle the indirect effects of aerosols from the direct and semi-direct effects in reality, a numerical sensitivity experiment is carried out using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model, which allows us to isolate indirect effects, all other effects being equal. The Mediterranean hydrological cycle has often been studied using regional climate model (RCM) simulations with parameterized convection, which is the approach we adopt in the present study. For this purpose, the Thompson aerosol-aware microphysics scheme is used in a pair of simulations run at 50 km resolution with extremely high and low aerosol concentrations. An additional pair of simulations has been performed at a convection-permitting resolution (3.3 km) to examine these effects without the use of parameterized convection.

While the reduced radiative flux due to the direct effects of the aerosols is already known to reduce precipitation amounts, there is still no general agreement on the sign and magnitude of the aerosol indirect forcing effect on precipitation, with various processes competing with each other. Although some processes tend to enhance precipitation amounts, some others tend to reduce them. In these simulations, increased aerosol loads lead to weaker precipitation in the parameterized (low-resolution) configuration. The fact that a similar result is obtained for a selected area in the convection-permitting (high-resolution) configuration allows for physical interpretations. By examining the key variables in the model outputs, we propose a causal chain that links the aerosol effects on microphysics to their simulated effect on precipitation, essentially through reduction of the radiative heating of the surface and corresponding reductions of surface temperature, resulting in increased atmospheric stability in the presence of high aerosol loads.

keywordsKeywords. Atmospheric composition and structure (aerosols and particles)



Da Silva, Nicolas / Mailler, Sylvain / Drobinski, Philippe: Aerosol indirect effects on summer precipitation in a regional climate model for the Euro-Mediterranean region. 2018. Copernicus Publications.


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