Articles | Volume 12, issue 7
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 3333–3348, 2012
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 3333–3348, 2012

Research article 10 Apr 2012

Research article | 10 Apr 2012

Climatic effects of 1950–2050 changes in US anthropogenic aerosols – Part 1: Aerosol trends and radiative forcing

E. M. Leibensperger1,*, L. J. Mickley1, D. J. Jacob1, W.-T. Chen2, J. H. Seinfeld3, A. Nenes4, P. J. Adams5, D. G. Streets6, N. Kumar7, and D. Rind8 E. M. Leibensperger et al.
  • 1School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
  • 2Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA
  • 3Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA
  • 4School of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences and School of Chemical & Biological Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA
  • 5Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and Department of Engineering & Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
  • 6Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL, USA
  • 7Electric Power Research Institute, Palo Alto, CA, USA
  • 8NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, NY, USA
  • *now at: Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA

Abstract. We calculate decadal aerosol direct and indirect (warm cloud) radiative forcings from US anthropogenic sources over the 1950–2050 period. Past and future aerosol distributions are constructed using GEOS-Chem and historical emission inventories and future projections from the IPCC A1B scenario. Aerosol simulations are evaluated with observed spatial distributions and 1980–2010 trends of aerosol concentrations and wet deposition in the contiguous US. Direct and indirect radiative forcing is calculated using the GISS general circulation model and monthly mean aerosol distributions from GEOS-Chem. The radiative forcing from US anthropogenic aerosols is strongly localized over the eastern US. We find that its magnitude peaked in 1970–1990, with values over the eastern US (east of 100° W) of −2.0 W m−2 for direct forcing including contributions from sulfate (−2.0 W m−2), nitrate (−0.2 W m−2), organic carbon (−0.2 W m−2), and black carbon (+0.4 W m−2). The uncertainties in radiative forcing due to aerosol radiative properties are estimated to be about 50%. The aerosol indirect effect is estimated to be of comparable magnitude to the direct forcing. We find that the magnitude of the forcing declined sharply from 1990 to 2010 (by 0.8 W m−2 direct and 1.0 W m−2 indirect), mainly reflecting decreases in SO2 emissions, and project that it will continue declining post-2010 but at a much slower rate since US SO2 emissions have already declined by almost 60% from their peak. This suggests that much of the warming effect of reducing US anthropogenic aerosol sources has already been realized. The small positive radiative forcing from US BC emissions (+0.3 W m−2 over the eastern US in 2010; 5% of the global forcing from anthropogenic BC emissions worldwide) suggests that a US emission control strategy focused on BC would have only limited climate benefit.

Final-revised paper