J8.4 Effects of Biomass Smoke from Southern Africa on Stratocumulus over the Southeastern Atlantic based on Satellite Observations and WRF-Chem Model Simulations (Invited Presentation)

Monday, 8 January 2018: 11:15 AM
Room 12A (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Xiaohong Liu, Univ. of Wyoming, Laramie, WY; and Z. Lu, Z. Zhang, C. Zhao, K. Meyer, C. Wu, C. Rajapakshe, Z. Yang, and J. E. Penner

Each year, large amount of biomass burning (BB) aerosols are emitted over southern Africa, and transported by the predominant circulation to the southeastern Atlantic Ocean (SEA), where they overly and potentially interact with the semi-permanent stratocumulus deck in the marine boundary layer (MBL). Many previous studies suggested that the aerosol plumes are well separated from the MBL clouds, and only focused on the radiative effects of BB aerosols (direct + semi-direct radiative effects); however, as shown in several recent satellite observational studies, BB aerosols are able to be frequently entrained into the underlying clouds, function as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN), and potentially cause microphysical effects.

Based on satellite observations from CATS, we found that the mixing frequencies between above-cloud aerosols and MBL clouds are very high (~50%) over both coastal and remote regions, suggesting that BB aerosols may likely contact MBL cloud top and function as CCN quickly after they are transported over SEA. Despite the potential importance of the microphysical effect of BB aerosols over SEA, its magnitude is not fully assessed by modeling studies.

In this study, we employ WRF-Chem model to study the impacts of BB aerosols on MBL stratocumulus clouds over SEA during the fire season of 2014. By designing three cases, we are able to quantitatively determine the relative importance of microphysical and radiative effects of BB aerosols. Our modeling results show that, by serving as CCN, BB aerosols are able to alter cloud properties of stratocumulus (e.g. higher cloud droplet number concentration [CDNC], higher cloud liquid water path [LWP], and larger cloud fraction [CF] before noon) and exert significant cooling effect at TOA (-8.05 Wm-2) over SEA. The cooling is primarily caused by higher CDNC (the Twomey effect), and secondarily by the changes in LWP and CF (the cloud lifetime effect). The semi-direct effect estimated in this study is smaller in magnitude compared to previous modeling studies (e.g. Sakaeda et al., 2011), partially because of the heating in the boundary layer after BB aerosols entrained in MBL. The findings in our study are important because they may partially explain the underestimation of cloud radiative forcing as predicted by GCMs.

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