Articles | Volume 12, issue 19
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 9303–9320, 2012

Special issue: Desert dust and its impact on air quality and climate

Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 9303–9320, 2012

Research article 12 Oct 2012

Research article | 12 Oct 2012

The effects of mineral dust particles, aerosol regeneration and ice nucleation parameterizations on clouds and precipitation

A. Teller1,*, L. Xue2, and Z. Levin1,3 A. Teller et al.
  • 1Energy, Environment and Water Research Center, The Cyprus Institute, Nicosia, Cyprus
  • 2National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 3Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
  • *Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel

Abstract. This study focuses on the effects of aerosol particles on the formation of convective clouds and precipitation in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, with a special emphasis on the role of mineral dust particles in these processes. We used a new detailed numerical cloud microphysics scheme that has been implemented in the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) model in order to study aerosol–cloud interaction in 3-D configuration based on 1° × 1° resolution reanalysis meteorological data. Using a number of sensitivity studies, we tested the contribution of mineral dust particles and different ice nucleation parameterizations to precipitation development. In this study we also investigated the importance of recycled (regenerated) aerosols that had been released to the atmosphere following the evaporation of cloud droplets.

The results showed that increased aerosol concentration due to the presence of mineral dust enhanced the formation of ice crystals. The dynamic evolution of the cloud system sets the time periods and regions in which heavy or light precipitation occurred in the domain. The precipitation rate, the time and duration of precipitation were affected by the aerosol properties only at small spatial scales (with areas of about 20 km2). Changes of the ice nucleation scheme from ice supersaturation-dependent parameterization to a recent approach of aerosol concentration and temperature-dependent parameterization modified the ice crystals concentrations but did not affect the total precipitation in the domain. Aerosol regeneration modified the concentration of cloud droplets at cloud base by dynamic recirculation of the aerosols but also had only a minor effect on precipitation.

The major conclusion from this study is that the effect of mineral dust particles on clouds and total precipitation is limited by the properties of the atmospheric dynamics and the only effect of aerosol on precipitation may come from significant increase in the concentration of accumulation mode aerosols. In addition, the presence of mineral dust had a much smaller effect on the total precipitation than on its spatial distribution.

Final-revised paper