The significant impact of aerosol vertical structure on lower atmosphere stability and its critical role in aerosol–planetary boundary layer (PBL) interactions

Su, Tianning; Li, Zhanqing; Li, Chengcai; Li, Jing; Han, Wenchao; Shen, Chuanyang; Tan, Wangshu; Wei, Jing; Guo, Jianping

The aerosol–planetary boundary layer (PBL) interaction was proposed as an important mechanism to stabilize the atmosphere and exacerbate surface air pollution. Despite the tremendous progress made in understanding this process, its magnitude and significance still have large uncertainties and vary largely with aerosol distribution and meteorological conditions. In this study, we focus on the role of aerosol vertical distribution in thermodynamic stability and PBL development by jointly using micropulse lidar, sun photometer, and radiosonde measurements taken in Beijing. Despite the complexity of aerosol vertical distributions, cloud-free aerosol structures can be largely classified into three types: well-mixed, decreasing with height, and inverse structures. The aerosol–PBL relationship and diurnal cycles of the PBL height and PMinline-formula2.5 associated with these different aerosol vertical structures show distinct characteristics. The vertical distribution of aerosol radiative forcing differs drastically among the three types, with strong heating in the lower, middle, and upper PBL, respectively. Such a discrepancy in the heating rate affects the atmospheric buoyancy and stability differently in the three distinct aerosol structures. Absorbing aerosols have a weaker effect of stabilizing the lower atmosphere under the decreasing structure than under the inverse structure. As a result, the aerosol–PBL interaction can be strengthened by the inverse aerosol structure and can be potentially neutralized by the decreasing structure. Moreover, aerosols can both enhance and suppress PBL stability, leading to both positive and negative feedback loops. This study attempts to improve our understanding of the aerosol–PBL interaction, showing the importance of the observational constraint of aerosol vertical distribution for simulating this interaction and consequent feedbacks.

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Su, Tianning / Li, Zhanqing / Li, Chengcai / et al: The significant impact of aerosol vertical structure on lower atmosphere stability and its critical role in aerosol–planetary boundary layer (PBL) interactions. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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