Assessment of CNRM coupled ocean-atmosphere model sensitivity to the representation of aerosols

Watson, Laura ; Michou, Martine ; Nabat, Pierre ; Saint-Martin, David

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Atmospheric aerosols can significantly affect the Earth's radiative balance due to absorption, scattering and aerosol-cloud interactions. Although our understanding of aerosol properties has improved over recent decades, aerosol radiative forcing remains as one of the largest uncertainties when attributing recent and projecting future anthropogenic climate change. Ensembles of a coupled ocean-atmosphere general circulation model were used to investigate how the representation of aerosols within the model can affect climate. The control simulation consisted of a 30-year simulation with an interactive aerosol scheme and aerosol emissions that evolve from 1980-2009. The sensitivity tests included using constant 1980 emissions, using prescribed 2-D monthly mean AODs, modifying the aerosol vertical distribution, altering aerosol optical properties, and changing the parameters used for calculating the aerosol first indirect effect. The results of these sensitivity studies show how modifying certain aspects of the aerosol scheme can significantly affect radiative flux and temperature. In particular, it was shown that compared to the control simulation the use of constant 1980 aerosol emissions decreased the average winter surface temperature of the Arctic by 0.2 K and that the use of prescribed 2-D monthly mean AODs reduced the annual global surface temperature by 0.3 K. Increasing the vertical distribution of anthropogenic aerosols in the model and altering aerosol optical properties modified localised radiative fluxes and temperatures, but the most significant change in global surface temperature (1.3 K) was caused by removing sea salt and organic matter from the calculation of cloud droplet number concentration.
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