Cloud adjustments dominate the overall negative aerosol radiative effects of biomass burning aerosols in UKESM1 climate model simulations over the south-eastern Atlantic

Che, Haochi; Stier, Philip; Gordon, Hamish; Watson-Parris, Duncan; Deaconu, Lucia

The south-eastern Atlantic Ocean (SEA) is semi-permanently covered by one of the most extensive stratocumulus cloud decks on the planet and experiences about one-third of the global biomass burning emissions from the southern Africa savannah region during the fire season. To get a better understanding of the impact of these biomass burning aerosols on clouds and the radiation balance over the SEA, the latest generation of the UK Earth System Model (UKESM1) is employed. Measurements from the CLARIFY and ORACLES flight campaigns are used to evaluate the model, demonstrating that the model has good skill in reproducing the biomass burning plume. To investigate the underlying mechanisms in detail, the effects of biomass burning aerosols on the clouds are decomposed into radiative effects (via absorption and scattering) and microphysical effects (via perturbation of cloud condensation nuclei – CCN – and cloud microphysical processes). July–August means are used to characterize aerosols, clouds, and the radiation balance during the fire season. Results show that around 65 % of CCN at 0.2 % supersaturation in the SEA can be attributed to biomass burning. The absorption effect of biomass burning aerosols is the most significant on clouds and radiation. Near the continent, it increases the supersaturation diagnosed by the activation scheme, while further from the continent it reduces the altitude of the supersaturation. As a result, the cloud droplet number concentration responds with a similar pattern to the absorption effect of biomass burning aerosols. The microphysical effect, however, decreases the supersaturation and increases the cloud droplet concentration over the ocean, although this change is relatively small. The liquid water path is also significantly increased over the SEA (mainly caused by the absorption effect of biomass burning aerosols) when biomass burning aerosols are above the stratocumulus cloud deck. The microphysical pathways lead to a slight increase in the liquid water path over the ocean. These changes in cloud properties indicate the significant role of biomass burning aerosols for clouds in this region. Among the effects of biomass burning aerosols on the radiation balance, the semi-direct radiative effects (rapid adjustments induced by the radiative effects of biomass burning aerosols) have a dominant cooling impact over the SEA, which offset the warming direct radiative effect (radiative forcing from biomass burning aerosol–radiation interactions) and lead to an overall net cooling radiative effect in the SEA. However, the magnitude and the sign of the semi-direct effects are sensitive to the relative location of biomass burning aerosols and clouds, reflecting the critical task of the accurate modelling of the biomass burning plume and clouds in this region.

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Che, Haochi / Stier, Philip / Gordon, Hamish / et al: Cloud adjustments dominate the overall negative aerosol radiative effects of biomass burning aerosols in UKESM1 climate model simulations over the south-eastern Atlantic. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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