Vertical structure of a springtime smoky and humid troposphere over the Southeast Atlantic from aircraft and reanalysis
Abstract. The springtime atmosphere over the southeast Atlantic Ocean (SEA) is subjected to a consistent layer of biomass burning (BB) smoke from widespread fires on the African continent. An elevated humidity signal is co-incident with this layer, consistently proportional to the amount of smoke present. The combined humidity and BB aerosol has potentially significant radiative and dynamic impacts. Here we use aircraft-based observations from the NASA ORACLES (ObseRvations of Aerosols above CLouds and their intEractionS) deployments in conjunction with reanalyses to characterize co-variations in humidity and BB smoke.
The observed plume-vapor relationship, and its agreement with the ERA5 and CAMS reanalyses, persists across all observations, although the magnitude of the relationship varies as the season progresses. Water vapor is well-represented by the reanalyses, while CAMS tends to underestimate carbon monoxide especially under high BB. While CAMS aerosol optical depth (AOD) is generally overestimated relative to ORACLES AOD, the observations show a consistent relationship between CO and aerosol extinction, demonstrating the utility of the CO tracer to understanding vertical aerosol distribution.
We next use k-means clustering of the reanalyses to examine multi-year seasonal patterns and distributions. We identify canonical profile types of humidity and of CO, allowing us to characterize changes in vapor and BB atmospheric structures, and their impacts, as they covary. Predominant profile types vary spatiotemporally across the SEA region and through the season. With this work, we establish a framework for a more complete analysis of the broader radiative and dynamical effects of humid aerosols over the SEA.
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