08 Dec 2022
08 Dec 2022

Aerosol-cloud impacts on aerosol detrainment and rainout in shallow maritime tropical clouds

Gabrielle R. Leung, Stephen M. Saleeby, G. Alexander Sokolowsky, Sean W. Freeman, and Susan C. van den Heever Gabrielle R. Leung et al.
  • Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, 80521, USA

Abstract. This study investigates how aerosol-induced changes to cloud properties subsequently influence the overall aerosol budget through changes to detrainment and rainout. We simulated an idealized field of shallow maritime tropical clouds using the Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (RAMS) and varied the aerosol loading and type between model runs to create a 16-member ensemble. The full aerosol budget was tracked over the course of the 48-hour simulation, showing that increasing the aerosol loading leads to an increase in aerosol regeneration and detrainment aloft at the expense of aerosol removal via rainout. Under increased aerosol loadings, cloud droplets are smaller and more likely to evaporate before they form precipitation-sized hydrometeors. As a result, the aerosol particles contained inside these droplets are released into the environment rather than being removed to the surface via rainout. However, the few raindrops which do happen to form under increased aerosol loadings tend to be larger since the cloud water available for collection is divided among fewer raindrops, and thus raindrops experience less evaporation. Thus, in contrast to previous work, we find increases in aerosol loading lead to decreases in aerosol rainout efficiency even without a decrease in the overall precipitation efficiency. We further used tobac, a package for tracking and identifying cloud objects, to identify shifts in the overall cloud population as a function of aerosol loading and type, and found contrasting aerosol effects in shallow cumulus and congestus clouds. Shallow cumulus clouds are more sensitive to the increase in cloud edge/top evaporation with increased aerosol loading, and thereby tend to rain less and remove less aerosol via rainout. On the other hand, larger congestus clouds are more protected from evaporation and are thereby able to benefit from warm-phase invigoration. This leads to an increase in rain rates but not in domain-wide aerosol rainout, as the domain-total rainfall becomes concentrated over a smaller horizontal area. Trends as a function of aerosol loading were remarkably consistent between the different aerosol types tested. These results represent a pathway by which a polluted environment not only has higher aerosol loadings than a pristine one, but is also less able to regulate those loadings by removal processes, instead transporting aerosols to the free troposphere where they remain available for reactivation and further aerosol-cloud interactions.

Gabrielle R. Leung 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-2022-1406', Anonymous Referee #1, 04 Jan 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-1406', Anonymous Referee #2, 25 Jan 2023

Gabrielle R. Leung et al.

Model code and software

RAMS source code, Python analysis scripts Gabrielle R. Leung, Stephen M. Saleeby

Gabrielle R. Leung et al.


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Short summary
This study explores how the concentration and type of aerosol particles impact shallow tropical clouds and the overall aerosol budget. Under more polluted conditions, there are more aerosol particles present, but we also find that clouds are less able to remove those aerosol particles via rainout. Instead, those aerosol particles are more likely to be detrained aloft and remain in the atmosphere for further aerosol-cloud interactions.