Aerosol-induced modification of organised convection and top-of-atmosphere radiation

Nishant, Nidhi ; Sherwood, Steven C. ; Geoffroy, Olivier

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<p align=justify>Aerosol effects on cloud cover and precipitation could affect the global climate but have proven difficult to verify, because cloud and rain amounts are so strongly influenced by local meteorological conditions. Here model and observational evidence is presented that an increase in CCN concentration slightly invigorates mixed-phase convective clouds and narrows tropical convergence and rain bands, while expanding associated cloud cover particularly at mid-levels. A suite of model simulations with various approaches indicates a 4 ± 3.8% decrease in the rain-to-cloud area ratio per doubling of the CCN concentration, an effect also detected in satellite observations. Idealised numerical experiments suggest the area ratio change is due to the invigoration-induced static stability increase. Although the invigoration and cloud amount changes are much smaller than suggested in some studies, in simulations the latter cool the planet by 0.71 ± 0.25 W/m2 in deep convective regions, suggesting a global effect of order 0.2-0.5 W/m2, per aerosol doubling. The contribution to present-day anthropogenic forcing is even harder to quantify but could compare to that of the direct aerosol radiative forcing. These results indicate a previously unrecognised pathway for aerosols to indirectly cool the climate by altering convective clouds dynamically.</p>
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