Articles | Volume 13, issue 2
Research article
22 Jan 2013
Research article |  | 22 Jan 2013

The first aerosol indirect effect quantified through airborne remote sensing during VOCALS-REx

D. Painemal and P. Zuidema

Abstract. The first aerosol indirect effect (1AIE) is investigated using a combination of in situ and remotely-sensed aircraft (NCAR C-130) observations acquired during VOCALS-REx over the southeast Pacific stratocumulus cloud regime. Satellite analyses have previously identified a high albedo susceptibitility to changes in cloud microphysics and aerosols over this region. The 1AIE was broken down into the product of two independently-estimated terms: the cloud aerosol interaction metric ACIτ =dlnτ/dlnNa|LWP , and the relative albedo (A) susceptibility SR-τ =dA/3dlnτ|LWP, with τ and Na denoting retrieved cloud optical thickness and in situ aerosol concentration respectively and calculated for fixed intervals of liquid water path (LWP).

ACIτ was estimated by combining in situ Na sampled below the cloud, with τ and LWP derived from, respectively, simultaneous upward-looking broadband irradiance and narrow field-of-view millimeter-wave radiometer measurements, collected at 1 Hz during four eight-hour daytime flights by the C-130 aircraft. ACIτ values were typically large, close to the physical upper limit (0.33), with a modest increase with LWP. The high ACIτ values slightly exceed values reported from many previous in situ airborne studies in pristine marine stratocumulus and reflect the imposition of a LWP constraint and simultaneity of aerosol and cloud measurements. SR-τ increased with LWP and τ, reached a maximum SR-τ (0.086) for LWP (τ) of 58 g m−2 (~14), and decreased slightly thereafter. The 1AIE thus increased with LWP and is comparable to a radiative forcing of −3.2– −3.8 W m−2 for a 10% increase in Na, exceeding previously-reported global-range values. The aircraft-derived values are consistent with satellite estimates derived from instantaneous, collocated Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) albedo and MOderate resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS)-retrieved droplet number concentrations at 50 km resolution. The consistency of the airborne and satellite estimates, despite their independent approaches, differences in observational scales, and retrieval assumptions, is hypothesized to reflect the ideal remote sensing conditions for these homogeneous clouds. We recommend the southeast Pacific for regional model assessments of the first aerosol indirect effect on this basis. This airborne remotely-sensed approach towards quantifying 1AIE should in theory be more robust than in situ calculations because of increased sampling. However, although the technique does not explicitly depend on a remotely-derived cloud droplet number concentration (Nd), the at-times unrealistically-high Nd values suggest more emphasis on accurate airborne radiometric measurements is needed to refine this approach.

Final-revised paper