The efficacy of aerosol–cloud radiative perturbations from near-surface emissions in deep open-cell stratocumuli

Possner, Anna; Wang, Hailong; Wood, Robert; Caldeira, Ken; Ackerman, Thomas P.

Aerosol–cloud radiative effects are determined and quantified in simulations of deep open-cell stratocumuli observed during the VAMOS Ocean-Cloud-Atmosphere-Land Study Regional Experiment (VOCALS-REx) campaign off the west coast of Chile. The cloud deck forms in a boundary layer 1.5 km deep, with cell sizes reaching 50 km in diameter. Global databases of ship tracks suggest that these linear structures are seldom found in boundary layers this deep. Here, we quantify the changes in cloud radiative properties to a continuous aerosol point source moving along a fixed emission line releasing 10inline-formula17 particles per second. We show that a spatially coherent cloud perturbation is not evident along the emission line. Yet our model simulates an increase in domain-mean all-sky albedo of 0.05, corresponding to a diurnally averaged cloud radiative effect of 20 inline-formulaW m−2, given the annual mean solar insolation at the VOCALS-REx site. Therefore, marked changes in cloud radiative properties in precipitating deep open cells may be driven by anthropogenic near-surface aerosol perturbations, such as those generated by ships.

Furthermore, we demonstrate that these changes in cloud radiative properties are masked by the naturally occurring variability within the organised cloud field. A clear detection and attribution of cloud radiative effects to a perturbation in aerosol concentrations becomes possible when sub-filtering of the cloud field is applied, using the spatio-temporal distribution of the aerosol perturbation. Therefore, this work has implications for the detection and attribution of effective cloud radiative forcing in marine stratocumuli, which constitutes one of the major physical uncertainties within the climate system. Our results suggest that ships may sometimes have a substantial radiative effect on marine clouds and albedo, even when ship tracks are not readily visible.

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Possner, Anna / Wang, Hailong / Wood, Robert / et al: The efficacy of aerosol–cloud radiative perturbations from near-surface emissions in deep open-cell stratocumuli. 2018. Copernicus Publications.

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