09 Dec 2022
09 Dec 2022

Does prognostic seeding along flight tracks produce the desired effects of cirrus cloud thinning?

Colin Tully, David Neubauer, Diego Villanueva, and Ulrike Lohmann Colin Tully et al.
  • Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

Abstract. To date the climate intervention (CI) proposal of cirrus cloud thinning (CCT) was only assessed in general circulation models (GCMs) using a globally uniform distribution of artificial ice nucleating particles (INPs). In this study, we made the first attempt using the ECHAM-HAM GCM to simulate CCT using a fully prognostic cirrus seeding aerosol species. Seeding particles were assumed to be made of bismuth-triiodide and were emitted into the atmosphere following aircraft emissions of black carbon (soot). This new approach drastically reduced the number concentration of seeding particles available as INPs in our cirrus ice nucleation sub-model compared to the globally uniform approach. As a result, we found that in order to achieve a significant signal we needed to reduce the assumed radius of emitted seeding particles by an order of magnitude to 0.01 μm and scale the mass emissions of seeding particles by at least a factor of 100 or 1000. This latter scaling factor led to a large net TOA warming effect of 5.9 Wm-2. This warming effect was a clear response to overseeding with a large concentration of seeding particles (> 105 L-1 in the northern hemisphere) that was most evident in the tropics. Due to this undesired effect, in a second series of simulations we avoided seeding the tropics by restricting emissions to only the northern hemisphere (NH) during winter. We also found a small and insignificant effect, or overseeding, which for the extreme case was reduced compared to the global aircraft emission scenario (2.2 Wm-2). Ice crystal radius anomalies were not what we expected, with the largest reduction in size found for the case with a mass scaling factor of 10 instead of the extreme, x1000, scenario. We attributed this peculiar behavior to the differences in the competition between different seeding particle concentrations and background particles. Finally, we also found that seeding with such large concentrations increased the albedo effect of mixed-phase clouds in the NH due to less efficient cloud droplet consumption, consistent with previous findings from our model. Overall, however, based on this study it is recommended to pause further modeling efforts of CCT unless more observational-based evidence of aerosol-ice-cloud interactions indicates favourable conditions for producing the desired outcome of this CI proposal.

Colin Tully et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-1238', Anonymous Referee #1, 19 Jan 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-1238', David Mitchell, 26 Jan 2023

Colin Tully et al.

Colin Tully et al.


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Short summary
This study details the first attempt with a GCM to simulate a fully prognostic aerosol species specifically for cirrus climate intervention. The new approach is in line with the real-world delivery mechanism via aircraft. However, to achieve an appreciable signal from seeding, smaller particles were needed, and their mass emissions needed to be scaled by at least a factor of 100. These biases contributed to either overseeding, or small and insignificant effects in response to seeding cirrus.