Subgrid-scale variability in clear-sky relative humidity and forcing by aerosol–radiation interactions in an atmosphere model

Petersik, Paul; Salzmann, Marc; Kretzschmar, Jan; Cherian, Ribu; Mewes, Daniel; Quaas, Johannes

Atmosphere models with resolutions of several tens of kilometres take subgrid-scale variability in the total specific humidity qt into account by using a uniform probability density function (PDF) to predict fractional cloud cover. However, usually only mean relative humidity, text-decoration: overline;RH, or mean clear-sky relative humidity, text-decoration: overline;RHcls, is used to compute hygroscopic growth of soluble aerosol particles. While previous studies based on limited-area models and also a global model suggest that subgrid-scale variability in RH should be taken into account for estimating radiative forcing due to aerosol–radiation interactions (RFari), here we present the first estimate of RFari using a global atmospheric model with a parameterization for subgrid-scale variability in RH that is consistent with the assumptions in the model. For this, we sample the subsaturated part of the uniform RH-PDF from the cloud cover scheme for its application in the hygroscopic growth parameterization in the ECHAM6-HAM2 atmosphere model. Due to the non-linear dependence of the hygroscopic growth on RH, this causes an increase in aerosol hygroscopic growth. Aerosol optical depth (AOD) increases by a global mean of 0.009 ( ∼ 7.8  % in comparison to the control run). Especially over the tropics AOD is enhanced with a mean of about 0.013. Due to the increase in AOD, net top of the atmosphere clear-sky solar radiation, SW net, cls, decreases by −0.22 W m −2 ( ∼ −0.08  %). Finally, the RFari changes from −0.15 to −0.19 W m −2  by about 31 %. The reason for this very disproportionate effect is that anthropogenic aerosols are disproportionally hygroscopic.

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Petersik, Paul / Salzmann, Marc / Kretzschmar, Jan / et al: Subgrid-scale variability in clear-sky relative humidity and forcing by aerosol–radiation interactions in an atmosphere model. 2018. Copernicus Publications.

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