Monday, 11 January 2016
Although aerosols are usually found in boundary layer beneath clouds, they can be elevated during long-range transport and rise above low-level clouds. In fact, above-cloud aerosols (ACA) are persistently observed in several regions of the globe during certain time of the year (Devasthale and Thomas, 2011; Winker et al., 2013). For example, marine-boundary layer clouds in SE Atlantic region are persistently covered by light-absorbing smoke aerosols originating from biomass burning acativities in African Savanna during austral winter (July ~ September). ACA is an important and interesting component of the climate system for a number of reasons, above all because its shortwave direct radiative effect (DRE) can differ significantly from that of clear-sky aerosols. The DRE of aerosols at the top of the atmosphere (TOA) is strongly dependent on the underlying surface. Over dark surfaces (e.g. ocean surface), the scattering effect of aerosols is generally dominant, leading to negative DRE (i.e., cooling) at TOA. In contrast, when aerosols reside above clouds, their absorption effect can be significantly enhanced by cloud reflection, and offset or even exceed the scattering effect of the aerosol leading to a less negative or even positive (i.e., warming) DRE at TOA.
In this study, we used 8 years of CALIOP and MODIS observations to derive the shortwave Direct of ACA over global oceans. We found in regions where ACAs are dominated by light absorbing aerosols (e.g., SE Atlantic and North Pacific), the cloudy-sky DRE at TOA due to ACA is generally positive, while in regions dominated by dust aerosols (e.g., North Atlantic and Arabian Sea) the DRE at TOA is generally negative (see Figure 7). The strongest positive TOA DRE is found in the SE Atlantic region during summer and fall with a seasonal mean over 0.4 W/m2. To our best knowledge, this is the first study to provide a global perspective on the DRE of ACA on global scale. Our results would be very useful for evaluating the improving modeling simulations of cloudy-sky DRE of aerosols. Note that global annual mean cloudy-sky DRE of aerosol ranges from -0.16 to +0.34 W/m2 in the current generation of climate models (Schulz et al., 2006).
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