J44.1 Invited Presentation: Impact of Aerosols on Convective Clouds and Precipitation

Thursday, 10 January 2013: 8:30 AM
Room 5ABC (Austin Convention Center)
Wei-Kuo Tao, NASA, Greenbelt, MD; and J. P. Chen, C. Wang, C. Zhang, and Z. Li

Aerosols are a critical factor in the atmospheric hydrological cycle and radiation budget. As a major agent for clouds to form and a significant attenuator of solar radiation, aerosols affect climate in several ways. Current research suggests that aerosols have a major impact on the dynamics, microphysics, and electrification properties of continental mixed-phase convective clouds. In addition, high aerosol concentrations in urban environments could affect precipitation variability by providing a significant source of cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). Such pollution effects on precipitation potentially have enormous climatic consequences both in terms of feedbacks involving the land surface via rainfall as well as the surface energy budget and changes in latent heat input to the atmosphere. Table 1 summarizes observations of cloud system features in high-aerosol and low-aerosol continental environments. Basically, aerosol concentrations can influence cloud droplet size distributions, the warm-rain process, the cold-rain process, cloud-top heights, the depth of the mixed-phase region, and the occurrence of lightning. The following review of observation-modeling studies of the AIE follows the general lifecycle of a cloud from the germination of cloud droplets, warm-rain, cold rain and mixed-phase rain processes, and deep convective clouds to thunderstorms. In each phase, aerosols exert different influences on the development of clouds that ultimately affect precipitation. Recently, many cloud resolution models (CRMs) have been used to examine the role of aerosols on mixed-phase convective clouds (Table 2). These modeling studies have many differences in terms of model configuration (two- or three-dimensional), domain size, grid spacing (150–3000 m), microphysics (two-moment bulk, simple or sophisticated spectral-bin), turbulence (1st or 1.5 order turbulent kinetic energy (TKE)), radiation, lateral boundary conditions (i.e., closed, radiative open or cyclic), cases (isolated convection, tropical or mid-latitude squall lines) and model integration time (e.g., 2.5 to 48 hours). Among these modeling studies, the most striking difference is that cumulative precipitation can either increase or decrease in response to higher concentrations of CCN. In this presentation, we review past efforts and summarize our current understanding of the effect of aerosols on convective precipitation processes. Specifically, this paper addresses the following topics: observational evidence of the effect of aerosols on precipitation processes, and results from (CRM) simulations. Note that this presentation is mainly based on a recent paper published in Geophy. Rev. (Tao et al. 2011).
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