Aerosol cloud interactions in southeast Pacific stratocumulus: satellite observations, in situ data and regional modeling
George, Rhea Candace
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The influence of anthropogenic aerosols on cloud radiative properties in the persistent southeast Pacific stratocumulus deck is investigated using MODIS satellite observations, in situ data from the VAMOS Ocean-Cloud-Atmosphere-Land Study Regional Experiment (VOCALS-REx), and WRF-Chem, a regional model with interactive chemistry and aerosols. An albedo proxy is derived based on the fractional coverage of low cloud (a macrophysical field) and the cloud albedo, with the latter broken down into contributions from microphysics (cloud droplet concentration, N<sub>d</sub> and macrophysics (liquid water path). Albedo variability is dominated by low cloud fraction variability, except within 10-15° of the South American coast, where cloud albedo variability contributes significantly. Covariance between cloud fraction and cloud albedo also contributes significantly to the variance in albedo, which highlights how complex and inseparable the factors controlling albedo are. N<sub>d</sub> variability contributes only weakly, which emphasizes that attributing albedo variability to the indirect effects of aerosols against the backdrop of natural meteorological variability is extremely challenging. Specific cases of aerosol changes can have strong impacts on albedo. We identify a pathway for periodic anthropogenic aerosol transport to the unpolluted marine stratocumulus >1000 km offshore, which strongly enhances N<sub>d</sub> and albedo in in zonally-elongated `hook'-shaped arc. Hook development occurs with N<sub>d</sub> increasing to polluted levels over the remote ocean primarily due to entrainment of a large number of small aerosols from the free troposphere that contribute a relatively small amount of aerosol mass to the marine boundary layer. Strong, deep offshore flow needed to transport continental aerosols to the remote ocean is favored by a trough approaching the South American coast and a southeastward shift of the climatological subtropical high pressure system. DMS significantly influences the aerosol number and size distributions, but does not cause hooks. The Twomey effect contributes 50-80% of the total aerosol indirect effect (AIE) both near sources and offshore during hook events. Meteorological variability between simulations can swamp the signal of AIEs, particularly due to the binary model cloud fraction field and distinguishing AIE requires determination of appropriate spatial and temporal averaging scales over which AIE is significant above this noise.
- Atmospheric sciences