Articles | Volume 11, issue 7
Research article
01 Apr 2011
Research article |  | 01 Apr 2011

Microphysical and radiative effects of aerosols on warm clouds during the Amazon biomass burning season as observed by MODIS: impacts of water vapor and land cover

J. E. Ten Hoeve, L. A. Remer, and M. Z. Jacobson

Abstract. Aerosol, cloud, water vapor, and temperature profile data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) are utilized to examine the impact of aerosols on clouds during the Amazonian biomass burning season in Rondônia, Brazil. It is found that increasing background column water vapor (CWV) throughout this transition season between the Amazon dry and wet seasons likely exerts a strong effect on cloud properties. As a result, proper analysis of aerosol-cloud relationships requires that data be stratified by CWV to account better for the influence of background meteorological variation. Many previous studies of aerosol-cloud interactions over Amazonia have ignored the systematic changes to meteorological factors during the transition season, leading to possible misinterpretation of their results. Cloud fraction (CF) is shown to increase or remain constant with aerosol optical depth (AOD), depending on the value of CWV, whereas the relationship between cloud optical depth (COD) and AOD is quite different. COD increases with AOD until AOD ~ 0.3, which is assumed to be due to the first indirect (microphysical) effect. At higher values of AOD, COD is found to decrease with increasing AOD, which may be due to: (1) the inhibition of cloud development by absorbing aerosols (radiative effect/semi-direct effect) and/or (2) a possible retrieval artifact in which the measured reflectance in the visible is less than expected from a cloud top either from the darkening of clouds through the addition of carbonaceous biomass burning aerosols within or above clouds or subpixel dark surface contamination in the measured cloud reflectance. If (1) is a contributing mechanism, as we suspect, then an empirically-derived increasing function between cloud drop number and aerosol concentration, assumed in a majority of global climate models, is inaccurate since these models do not include treatment of aerosol absorption in and around clouds. The relationship between aerosols and both CWV and clouds over varying land surface types is also analyzed. The study finds that the difference in CWV between forested and deforested land is not correlated with aerosol loading, supporting the assumption that temporal variation of CWV is primarily a function of the larger-scale meteorology. However, a difference in the response of CF to increasing AOD is observed between forested and deforested land. This suggests that dissimilarities between other meteorological factors, such as atmospheric stability, may have an impact on aerosol-cloud correlations between different land cover types.

Final-revised paper