11th Conference on Atmospheric Radiation and the 11th Conference on Cloud Physics

Tuesday, 4 June 2002: 4:45 PM
Influence of anthropogenic aerosol on cloud optical depth and albedo shown by satellite measurements and chemical transport modeling
Stephen E. Schwartz, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, NY; and D. Harshvardhan and C. M. Benkovitz
The Twomey effect of enhanced cloud droplet concentration, optical depth, and albedo due to anthropogenic aerosols is thought to contribute substantially to radiative forcing of climate change over the industrial period. However, present model-based estimates of this indirect forcing are highly uncertain. Satellite-based measurements would provide global or near-global coverage of this effect, but previous efforts to identify and quantify enhancement of cloud albedo due to anthropogenic aerosols in satellite observations have been limited, largely because of strong dependence of albedo on cloud liquid water path (LWP), which is inherently variable.

We have examined satellite-derived cloud radiative properties over two one-week episodes for which a chemical transport and transformation model indicates substantial influx of sulfate aerosol from industrial regions of Europe and North America to remote areas of the North Atlantic. Despite absence of discernible dependence of optical depth or albedo on modeled sulfate loading, examination of the dependence of these quantities on LWP readily permits detection and quantification of increases correlated with sulfate loading which are otherwise masked by variability of LWP, demonstrating brightening of clouds due to the Twomey effect on a synoptic scale. Median cloud-top spherical albedo was enhanced over these episodes, relative to the unperturbed base case for the same LWP distribution, by 0.02 to 0.15.

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