Present-day radiative effect from radiation-absorbing aerosols in snow

Tuccella, Paolo; Pitari, Giovanni; Colaiuda, Valentina; Raparelli, Edoardo; Curci, Gabriele

Black carbon (BC), brown carbon (BrC), and soil dust are the most important radiation-absorbing aerosols (RAAs). When RAAs are deposited on the snowpack, they lower the snow albedo, causing an increase in the solar radiation absorption. The climatic impact associated with the snow darkening induced by RAAs is highly uncertain. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) attributes low and medium confidence to radiative forcing (RF) from BrC and dust in snow, respectively. Therefore, the contribution of anthropogenic sources and carbonaceous aerosols to RAA RF in snow is not clear. Moreover, the snow albedo perturbation induced by a single RAA species depends on the presence of other light-absorbing impurities contained in the snowpack. In this work, we calculated the present-day RF of RAAs in snow starting from the deposition fields from a 5-year simulation with the GEOS-Chem global chemistry and transport model. RF was estimated taking into account the presence of BC, BrC, and mineral soil dust in snow, simultaneously. Modeled BC and black carbon equivalent (BCE) mixing ratios in snow and the fraction of light absorption due to non-BC compounds (inline-formulafnon-BC) were compared with worldwide observations. We showed that BC, BCE, and inline-formulafnon-BC, obtained from deposition and precipitation fluxes, reproduce the regional variability and order of magnitude of the observations. Global-average all-sky total RAA-, BC-, BrC-, and dust-snow RF were 0.068, 0.033, 0.0066, and 0.012 W minline-formula−2, respectively. At a global scale, non-BC compounds accounted for 40 % of RAA-snow RF, while anthropogenic RAAs contributed to the forcing for 56 %. With regard to non-BC compounds, the largest impact of BrC has been found during summer in the Arctic (inline-formula+0.13 W minline-formula−2). In the middle latitudes of Asia, the forcing from dust in spring accounted for 50 % (inline-formula+0.24 W minline-formula−2) of the total RAA RF. Uncertainties in absorbing optical properties, RAA mixing ratio in snow, snow grain dimension, and snow cover fraction resulted in an overall uncertainty of inline-formula−50 %/inline-formula+61 %, inline-formula−57 %/inline-formula+183 %, inline-formula−63 %/inline-formula+112 %, and inline-formula−49 %/inline-formula+77 % in BC-, BrC-, dust-, and total RAA-snow RF, respectively. Uncertainty upper bounds of BrC and dust were about 2 and 3 times larger than the upper bounds associated with BC. Higher BrC and dust uncertainties were mainly due to the presence of multiple absorbing impurities in the snow. Our results highlight that an improvement of the representation of RAAs in snow is desirable, given the potential high efficacy of this forcing.



Tuccella, Paolo / Pitari, Giovanni / Colaiuda, Valentina / et al: Present-day radiative effect from radiation-absorbing aerosols in snow. 2021. Copernicus Publications.


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