01 Nov 2023
 | 01 Nov 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion and under review for Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Aerosol-Induced Closure of Marine Cloud Cells: Enhanced Effects in the Presence of Precipitation

Matthew W. Christensen, Peng Wu, Adam C. Varble, Heng Xiao, and Jerome D. Fast

Abstract. The Weather Research Forecasting (WRF) V4.2 model is configured within a Lagrangian framework to quantify the impact of aerosols on evolving cloud fields. Simulations employing realistic meteorological boundary conditions are based on 10 case study days offering diverse meteorology during the Aerosol and Cloud Experiments in the Eastern North Atlantic (ACE-ENA). Cloud and aerosol retrievals in observations from aircraft measurements, ground-based Atmosphere Radiation Measurement (ARM) data at Graciosa Island in the Azores, and A-Train and geostationary satellites are in good agreement with the simulations. Higher aerosol concentration leads to suppressed drizzle and increased cloud water content. These changes lead to larger radiative cooling rates at cloud top, enhanced vertical velocity variance, and increased vertical and horizontal wind speed near the base of the lower-tropospheric inversion. As a result, marine cloud cell area expands, narrowing the gap between shallow clouds and increasing cloud optical thickness, liquid water content, and the top-of-atmosphere outgoing shortwave flux. While similar aerosol effects are observed in lightly to non-raining clouds, they tend to be smaller by comparison. These results show a strong link between cloud cell area expansion and the radiative adjustments caused by liquid water path and cloud fraction changes. These adjustments scale by 74 % and 51 %, respectively, relative to the Twomey effect. Given the limitations of traditional global climate model resolutions, addressing mesoscale cloud-state transitions at kilometer-scale resolutions or higher should be of utmost importance in accurately quantifying aerosol radiative forcing.

Matthew W. Christensen et al.

Status: open (until 13 Dec 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-2416', Anonymous Referee #1, 22 Nov 2023 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-2416', Michael Diamond, 05 Dec 2023 reply

Matthew W. Christensen et al.

Matthew W. Christensen et al.


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Short summary
Clouds are essential to keep Earth cooler by reflecting sunlight back to space. We show that an increase in aerosol concentration suppresses precipitation in clouds, causing them to accumulate water and expand in a polluted environment with stronger turbulence and radiative cooling. This process enhances their reflectance by 51 %. It’s therefore prudent to account for cloud fraction changes in assessments of aerosol-cloud interactions to improve predictions of climate change.