Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2024-4
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2024-4
09 Jan 2024
 | 09 Jan 2024

General circulation models simulate negative liquid water path­–droplet number correlations, but anthropogenic aerosols still increase simulated liquid water path

Johannes Mülmenstädt, Edward Gryspeerdt, Sudhakar Dipu, Johannes Quaas, Andrew S. Ackerman, Ann M. Fridlind, Florian Tornow, Susanne E. Bauer, Andrew Gettelman, Yi Ming, Youtong Zheng, Po-Lun Ma, Hailong Wang, Kai Zhang, Matthew W. Christensen, Adam C. Varble, L. Ruby Leung, Xiaohong Liu, David Neubauer, Daniel G. Partridge, Philip Stier, and Toshihiko Takemura

Abstract. General circulation models' (GCMs) estimates of the liquid water path adjustment to anthropogenic aerosol emissions differ in sign from other lines of evidence. This reduces confidence in estimates of the effective radiative forcing of the climate by aerosol–cloud interactions (ERFaci). The discrepancy is thought to stem in part from GCMs' inability to represent the turbulence–microphysics interactions in cloud-top entrainment, a mechanism that leads to a reduction in liquid water in response to an anthropogenic increase in aerosols. In the real atmosphere, enhanced cloud-top entrainment is thought to be the dominant adjustment mechanism for liquid water path, weakening the overall ERFaci. We show that the latest generation of GCMs includes models that produce a negative correlation between present-day cloud droplet number and liquid water path, a key piece of observational evidence supporting liquid water path reduction by anthropogenic aerosols and one that earlier-generation GCMs could not reproduce. However, even in GCMs with this negative correlation, the increase in anthropogenic aerosols from preindustrial to present-day values still leads to an increase in simulated liquid water path due to the parameterized precipitation-suppression mechanism. This adds to the evidence that correlations in the present-day climate are not necessarily causal. We investigate sources of confounding to explain the noncausal correlation between liquid water path and droplet number. These results are a reminder that assessments of climate parameters based on multiple lines of evidence must carefully consider the complementary strengths of different lines when the lines disagree.

Johannes Mülmenstädt, Edward Gryspeerdt, Sudhakar Dipu, Johannes Quaas, Andrew S. Ackerman, Ann M. Fridlind, Florian Tornow, Susanne E. Bauer, Andrew Gettelman, Yi Ming, Youtong Zheng, Po-Lun Ma, Hailong Wang, Kai Zhang, Matthew W. Christensen, Adam C. Varble, L. Ruby Leung, Xiaohong Liu, David Neubauer, Daniel G. Partridge, Philip Stier, and Toshihiko Takemura

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-2024-4', Jianhao Zhang, 29 Jan 2024
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2024-4', Anna Possner, 13 Feb 2024
Johannes Mülmenstädt, Edward Gryspeerdt, Sudhakar Dipu, Johannes Quaas, Andrew S. Ackerman, Ann M. Fridlind, Florian Tornow, Susanne E. Bauer, Andrew Gettelman, Yi Ming, Youtong Zheng, Po-Lun Ma, Hailong Wang, Kai Zhang, Matthew W. Christensen, Adam C. Varble, L. Ruby Leung, Xiaohong Liu, David Neubauer, Daniel G. Partridge, Philip Stier, and Toshihiko Takemura

Data sets

US CMS model runs for https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2024-4 J. Mülmenstädt et al. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.10449670

Model code and software

jmuelmen/egusphere-2024-4: egusphere-2024-4 initial ACP submission J. Mülmenstädt https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.10449750

Johannes Mülmenstädt, Edward Gryspeerdt, Sudhakar Dipu, Johannes Quaas, Andrew S. Ackerman, Ann M. Fridlind, Florian Tornow, Susanne E. Bauer, Andrew Gettelman, Yi Ming, Youtong Zheng, Po-Lun Ma, Hailong Wang, Kai Zhang, Matthew W. Christensen, Adam C. Varble, L. Ruby Leung, Xiaohong Liu, David Neubauer, Daniel G. Partridge, Philip Stier, and Toshihiko Takemura

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Short summary
Human activities release copious amounts of small particles, called aerosols, into the atmosphere. These particles change how much sunlight clouds reflect to space, an important human perturbation of the climate whose magnitude is highly uncertain. We found that the latest climate models show a negative correlation but a positive causal relationship between aerosols and cloud water. This means we need to be very careful when we interpret observational studies that can only see correlation.