A steady-state analysis of the temperature responses of water vapor and aerosol lifetimes
Abstract. The dominant removal mechanism of soluble aerosol is wet deposition. The atmospheric lifetime of aerosol, relevant for aerosol radiative forcing, is therefore coupled to the atmospheric cycling time of water vapor. This study investigates the coupling between water vapor and aerosol lifetimes in a well-mixed atmosphere. Based on a steady-state study by Pruppacher and Jaenicke (1995) we describe the coupling in terms of the processing efficiency of air by clouds and the efficiencies of water vapor condensation, of aerosol activation, and of the transfer from cloud water to precipitation. We extend this to expressions for the temperature responses of the water vapor and aerosol lifetimes. Previous climate model results (Held and Soden, 2006) suggest a water vapor lifetime temperature response of +5.3 ± 2.0% K−1. This can be used as a first guess for the aerosol lifetime temperature response, but temperature sensitivities of the aerosol lifetime simulated in recent aerosol–climate model studies extend beyond this range and include negative values. This indicates that other influences probably have a larger impact on the computed aerosol lifetime than its temperature response, more specifically changes in the spatial distributions of aerosol (precursor) emissions and precipitation patterns, and changes in the activation efficiency of aerosol. These are not quantitatively evaluated in this study but we present suggestions for model experiments that may help to understand and quantify the different factors that determine the aerosol atmospheric lifetime.