Articles | Volume 10, issue 7
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 10, 3235–3246, 2010
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 10, 3235–3246, 2010

  06 Apr 2010

06 Apr 2010

Total aerosol effect: radiative forcing or radiative flux perturbation?

U. Lohmann1, L. Rotstayn2, T. Storelvmo1, A. Jones3, S. Menon4, J. Quaas5, A. M. L. Ekman6, D. Koch7, and R. Ruedy7 U. Lohmann et al.
  • 1Institute of Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, CSIRO, Aspendale, Victoria, Australia
  • 3Met Office Hadley Centre, Exeter, UK
  • 4Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, USA
  • 5Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany
  • 6Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 7NASA GISS, New York, NY, USA

Abstract. Uncertainties in aerosol radiative forcings, especially those associated with clouds, contribute to a large extent to uncertainties in the total anthropogenic forcing. The interaction of aerosols with clouds and radiation introduces feedbacks which can affect the rate of precipitation formation. In former assessments of aerosol radiative forcings, these effects have not been quantified. Also, with global aerosol-climate models simulating interactively aerosols and cloud microphysical properties, a quantification of the aerosol forcings in the traditional way is difficult to define properly. Here we argue that fast feedbacks should be included because they act quickly compared with the time scale of global warming. We show that for different forcing agents (aerosols and greenhouse gases) the radiative forcings as traditionally defined agree rather well with estimates from a method, here referred to as radiative flux perturbations (RFP), that takes these fast feedbacks and interactions into account. Based on our results, we recommend RFP as a valid option to compare different forcing agents, and to compare the effects of particular forcing agents in different models.

Final-revised paper