Global cloud condensation nuclei influenced by carbonaceous combustion aerosol
Abstract. Black carbon in carbonaceous combustion aerosol warms the climate by absorbing solar radiation, meaning reductions in black carbon emissions are often perceived as an attractive global warming mitigation option. However, carbonaceous combustion aerosol can also act as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) so they also cool the climate by increasing cloud albedo. The net radiative effect of carbonaceous combustion aerosol is uncertain because their contribution to CCN has not been evaluated on the global scale. By combining extensive observations of CCN concentrations with the GLOMAP global aerosol model, we find that the model is biased low (normalised mean bias = −77 %) unless carbonaceous combustion aerosol act as CCN. We show that carbonaceous combustion aerosol accounts for more than half (52–64 %) of global CCN with the range due to uncertainty in the emitted size distribution of carbonaceous combustion particles. The model predicts that wildfire and pollution (fossil fuel and biofuel) carbonaceous combustion aerosol causes a global mean cloud albedo aerosol indirect effect of −0.34 W m−2, with stronger cooling if we assume smaller particle emission size. We calculate that carbonaceous combustion aerosol from pollution sources cause a global mean aerosol indirect effect of −0.23 W m−2. The small size of carbonaceous combustion particles from fossil fuel sources means that whilst pollution sources account for only one-third of the emitted mass they cause two-thirds of the cloud albedo aerosol indirect effect that is due to carbonaceous combustion aerosol. This cooling effect must be accounted for, along with other cloud effects not studied here, to ensure that black carbon emissions controls that reduce the high number concentrations of fossil fuel particles have the desired net effect on climate.