Microphysical, macrophysical, and radiative responses of subtropical marine clouds to aerosol injections
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Microphysical, macrophysical, and radiative responses of subtropical marine clouds to aerosol injections

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  • Journal Title:
    Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics
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    Ship tracks in subtropical marine low clouds are simulated and investigated using large-eddy simulations. Five variants of a shallow subtropical stratocumulus-topped marine boundary layer (MBL) are chosen to span a range of background aerosol concentrations and variations in free-tropospheric moisture. Idealized time-invariant meteorological forcings and approximately steady-state aerosol concentrations constitute the background conditions. We investigate processes controlling cloud microphysical, macrophysical, and radiative responses to aerosol injections. For the analysis, we use novel methods to decompose the liquid water path (LWP) adjustment into changes in cloud and boundary-layer properties and to decompose the cloud radiative effect (CRE) into contributions from cloud macro- and microphysics. The key results are that (a) the cloud-top entrainment rate increases in all cases, with stronger increases for thicker than thinner clouds; (b) the drying and warming induced by increased entrainment is offset to differing degrees by corresponding responses in surface fluxes, precipitation, and radiation; (c) MBL turbulence responds to changes caused by the aerosol perturbation, and this significantly affects cloud macrophysics; (d) across 2 d of simulation, clouds were brightened in all cases. In a pristine MBL, significant drizzle suppression by aerosol injections results not only in greater water retention but also in turbulence intensification, leading to a significant increase in cloud amount. In this case, Twomey brightening is strongly augmented by an increase in cloud thickness and cover. In addition, a reduction in the loss of aerosol through coalescence scavenging more than offsets the entrainment dilution. This interplay precludes estimation of the lifetime of the aerosol perturbation. The combined responses of cloud macro- and microphysics lead to 10–100 times more effective cloud brightening in these cases relative to those in the non-precipitating MBL cases. In moderate and polluted MBLs, entrainment enhancement makes the boundary layer drier, warmer, and more stratified, leading to a decrease in cloud thickness. This LWP response offsets the greatest fraction of the Twomey brightening in a moderately moist free troposphere. This finding differs from previous studies that found larger offsets in a drier free troposphere, and it results from a greater entrainment enhancement of initially thicker clouds, so the offsetting effects are weaker. The injected aerosol lifetime in cases with polluted MBLs is estimated to be 2–3 d, which is much longer than estimates of typical ship track lifetimes from satellite images.
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    Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 23(2), 1345-1368
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    CC BY
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