30 Jun 2023
 | 30 Jun 2023

Improved Simulations of Biomass Burning Aerosol Optical Properties and Lifetimes in the NASA GEOS Model during the ORACLES-I Campaign

Sampa Das, Peter Colarco, Huisheng Bian, and Santiago Gasso

Abstract. In order to improve aerosol representation in the NASA Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS) model, we evaluated simulations of the aerosol properties and transport over the southern African biomass burning source and outflow region using observations made during the first deployment of the ORACLES (ObseRvations of Aerosols above CLouds and their intEractionS) field campaign in September 2016. An example case study of September 24 was analyzed in detail, during which aircraft-based in-situ and remote sensing observations showed the presence of a multi-layered smoke plume structure with significant vertical variation in single scattering albedo (SSA). Our baseline GEOS simulations were not able to represent the observed SSA variation, nor the observed organic aerosol-to-black carbon ratio (OA : BC). Analyzing the simulated smoke age suggests that the higher altitude, less absorbing smoke plume was younger (~4 days), while the lower altitude and more absorbing smoke plume was older (~7 days). We hypothesize a chemical or microphysical loss process exists to explain the change in aerosol absorption as the smoke plume ages, and we apply a simple 6-day e-folding loss rate to the model hydrophilic biomass burning OA to mimic this process. Adding this loss process required some adjustment to the model assumed scaling factors of aerosol emissions to conserve the regional aerosol loading and further improve the simulated OA : BC ratio. Accordingly, we have increased our biomass burning emissions of OA by 60 % and biomass burning BC by 15 %. We also utilized the ORACLES airborne observations to better constrain the simulation of aerosol optical properties, adjusting the assumed particle size, hygroscopic growth, and absorption. Our final GEOS model simulation with additional OA loss and updated optics showed a better performance in simulating AOD and SSA compared to independent ground and space-based retrievals for the entire month of September 2016, including the OMI Aerosol Index. In terms of radiative implications of our model adjustments, the final GEOS simulation suggested a decreased atmospheric warming of about 10 % (~2 W m-2) over the south-east Atlantic region and above the stratocumulus cloud decks compared to the model baseline simulations. These results improve the representation of the smoke age, transport, and optical properties in Earth system models.

Sampa Das et al.

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Sampa Das et al.

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Improved Simulations of Biomass Burning Aerosol Optical Properties and Lifetimes during the ORACLES-I Campaign: Results from the NASA GEOS Model Sampa Das, Peter Colarco, Huisheng Bian, and Santiago Gasso

Sampa Das et al.


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Short summary
The smoke aerosols emitted from vegetation burning can alter the regional energy budget via multiple pathways. We utilized detailed observations from the NASA ORACLES airborne campaign based in Namibia during September 2016 to improve the representation of smoke aerosol properties and lifetimes in our GEOS Earth system model. The improved model simulations are for the first time able to capture the observed changes in the smoke absorption during long-range plume transport.