Rapid saturation of cloud water adjustments to shipping emissions

Manshausen, Peter; Watson-Parris, Duncan; Christensen, Matthew W.; Jalkanen, Jukka-Pekka; Stier, Philip

Human aerosol emissions change cloud properties by providing additional cloud condensation nuclei. This increases cloud droplet numbers, which in turn affects other cloud properties like liquid-water content and ultimately cloud albedo. These adjustments are poorly constrained, making aerosol effects the most uncertain part of anthropogenic climate forcing. Here we show that cloud droplet number and water content react differently to changing emission amounts in shipping exhausts. We use information about ship positions and modeled emission amounts together with reanalysis winds and satellite retrievals of cloud properties. The analysis reveals that cloud droplet numbers respond linearly to emission amount over a large range (1–10 kg hinline-formula−1) before the response saturates. Liquid water increases in raining clouds, and the anomalies are constant over the emission ranges observed. There is evidence that this independence of emissions is due to compensating effects under drier and more humid conditions, consistent with suppression of rain by enhanced aerosol. This has implications for our understanding of cloud processes and may improve the way clouds are represented in climate models, in particular by changing parameterizations of liquid-water responses to aerosol.

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Manshausen, Peter / Watson-Parris, Duncan / Christensen, Matthew W. / et al: Rapid saturation of cloud water adjustments to shipping emissions. 2023. Copernicus Publications.

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