Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2024-778
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2024-778
28 Mar 2024
 | 28 Mar 2024
Status: this preprint is open for discussion and under review for Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Can GCMs represent cloud adjustments to aerosol–cloud interactions?

Johannes Mülmenstädt, Andrew S. Ackerman, Ann M. Fridlind, Meng Huang, Po-Lun Ma, Naser Mahfouz, Susanne E. Bauer, Susannah M. Burrows, Matthew W. Christensen, Sudhakar Dipu, Andrew Gettelman, L. Ruby Leung, Florian Tornow, Johannes Quaas, Adam C. Varble, Hailong Wang, Kai Zhang, and Youtong Zheng

Abstract. General circulation models (GCMs), unlike other lines of evidence, indicate that anthropogenic aerosols cause a global-mean increase in cloud liquid water path (đť“›), and thus a negative adjustment to radiative forcing of the climate by aerosol–cloud interactions. In part 1 of this manuscript series, we showed that this is true even in models that reproduce the negative correlation observed in present-day internal variability of đť“› and cloud droplet number concentration (Nd). We studied several possible confounding mechanisms that could explain the noncausal cloud–aerosol correlations in GCMs and that possibly contaminate observational estimates of radiative adjustments. Here, we perform single-column and full-atmosphere GCM experiments to investigate the causal model-physics mechanisms underlying the model radiative adjustment estimate. We find that both aerosol–cloud interaction mechanisms thought to be operating in real clouds – precipitation suppression and entrainment evaporation enhancement – are active in GCMs and behave qualitatively in agreement with physical process understanding. However, the modeled entrainment enhancement has a negligible global-mean effect. This raises the question whether the GCM estimate is incorrect due to parametric or base-state representation errors, or whether the process understanding gleaned from a limited set of canonical cloud cases is insufficiently representative of the diversity of clouds in the real climate. Regardless, even at limited resolution, the GCM physics appears able to parameterize the small-scale microphysics–turbulence interplay responsible for the entrainment enhancement mechanism. We suggest ways to resolve tension between current and future (storm-resolving) global modeling systems and other lines of evidence in synthesis climate projections.

Johannes Mülmenstädt, Andrew S. Ackerman, Ann M. Fridlind, Meng Huang, Po-Lun Ma, Naser Mahfouz, Susanne E. Bauer, Susannah M. Burrows, Matthew W. Christensen, Sudhakar Dipu, Andrew Gettelman, L. Ruby Leung, Florian Tornow, Johannes Quaas, Adam C. Varble, Hailong Wang, Kai Zhang, and Youtong Zheng

Status: open (until 09 May 2024)

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Johannes Mülmenstädt, Andrew S. Ackerman, Ann M. Fridlind, Meng Huang, Po-Lun Ma, Naser Mahfouz, Susanne E. Bauer, Susannah M. Burrows, Matthew W. Christensen, Sudhakar Dipu, Andrew Gettelman, L. Ruby Leung, Florian Tornow, Johannes Quaas, Adam C. Varble, Hailong Wang, Kai Zhang, and Youtong Zheng
Johannes Mülmenstädt, Andrew S. Ackerman, Ann M. Fridlind, Meng Huang, Po-Lun Ma, Naser Mahfouz, Susanne E. Bauer, Susannah M. Burrows, Matthew W. Christensen, Sudhakar Dipu, Andrew Gettelman, L. Ruby Leung, Florian Tornow, Johannes Quaas, Adam C. Varble, Hailong Wang, Kai Zhang, and Youtong Zheng

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Short summary
Stratocumulus clouds play a large role in Earth's climate by reflecting incoming solar energy back to space. Turbulence at stratocumulus cloud top mixes in drier, warmer air, which can lead to a reduction in cloud. This process is challenging for coarse-resolution global models to represent. We show that global models nevertheless agree well with our process understanding. Global models also think the process is less important for the climate than other lines of evidence had led us to conclude.