Articles | Volume 12, issue 23
Research article
03 Dec 2012
Research article |  | 03 Dec 2012

The effect of ENSO-induced rainfall and circulation changes on the direct and indirect radiative forcing from Indonesian biomass-burning aerosols

A. Chrastansky and L. D. Rotstayn

Abstract. Emissions of biomass-burning aerosols from the Indonesian region are known to vary in response to rainfall anomalies associated with the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). For the severe El Niño-related drought in 1997, there have been several attempts to estimate the direct radiative forcing from increased aerosol emissions over Indonesia, as well as the associated feedbacks on climate. However, these estimates have not considered indirect aerosol effects. Another question that has not been addressed is whether the effect of ENSO-related circulation and rainfall anomalies on radiative forcing is significant relative to the effect of changes in emissions. In this study, we analyse the direct and first indirect radiative forcing from El Niño-related increased emissions of Indonesian biomass-burning aerosols, with and without the influence of ENSO-related rainfall and circulation anomalies.

We compare two experiments that are performed with the CSIRO-Mk3.6 atmospheric global climate model (GCM). The first experiment (AMIP) consists of a pair of runs that respectively represent El Niño and La Niña conditions. In these runs, the distribution of aerosols is simulated under the influence of realistic Indonesian biomass-burning aerosol emissions and sea surface temperatures (SSTs) for 1997 (El Niño) and 2000 (La Niña). The second experiment (CLIM) is identical to AMIP, but is forced by climatological SSTs, so that in CLIM meteorological differences between 1997 and 2000 are suppressed.

The comparison of AMIP and CLIM shows that the aerosol radiative forcing anomalies associated with ENSO (El Niño minus La Niña) are substantially stronger when ENSO-related SST anomalies are taken into account. For the first indirect effect, the influence of SST-induced changes in rainfall and circulation exceeds that of changes in emissions. For the direct aerosol forcing, the influence of changes in SSTs and emissions are of comparable magnitude. Averaged over the Indonesian region (5.6° N–11.2° S, 96.6° E–150.9° E), the first indirect forcing is −0.7 Wm−2 in CLIM and −2.2 Wm−2 in AMIP during the months July to November. The direct aerosol forcing at the top of the atmosphere (surface) is −1.0 (−5.3) Wm−2 in CLIM and −1.8 (−9.1) Wm−2 in AMIP during the same period.

Our results suggest that (a) the indirect aerosol effect from biomass-burning aerosols is strong enough to play an important role for impact assessments, and (b) that impacts of biomass-burning aerosols would be considerably underestimated if feedbacks of ENSO-related SST variations on radiative forcing are not taken into account.

Final-revised paper