Articles | Volume 14, issue 4
Research article
28 Feb 2014
Research article |  | 28 Feb 2014

A long-term satellite study of aerosol effects on convective clouds in Nordic background air

M. K. Sporre, E. Swietlicki, P. Glantz, and M. Kulmala

Abstract. Aerosol-cloud interactions constitute a major uncertainty in future climate predictions. This study combines 10 years of ground-based aerosol particle measurements from two Nordic background stations (Vavihill and Hyytiälä) with MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) satellite data of convective clouds. The merged data are used to examine how aerosols affect cloud droplet sizes and precipitation from convective clouds over the Nordic countries. From the satellite scenes, vertical profiles of cloud droplet effective radius (re) are created by plotting retrieved cloud top re against cloud top temperature for the clouds in a given satellite scene. The profiles have been divided according to aerosol number concentrations but also meteorological reanalysis parameters from the ECMWF (European Centre for Medium-Range Forecasts). Furthermore, weather radar data from the BALTEX (Baltic Sea Experiment) and precipitation data from several ground-based meteorological measurement stations have been investigated to determine whether aerosols affect precipitation intensity and amount.

Small re throughout the entire cloud profiles is associated with high aerosol number concentrations at both stations. However, aerosol number concentrations seem to affect neither the cloud optical thickness nor the vertical extent of the clouds in this study. Cloud profiles with no or little precipitation have smaller droplets than those with more precipitation. Moreover, the amount of precipitation that reaches the ground is affected by meteorological conditions such as the vertical extent of the clouds, the atmospheric instability and the relative humidity in the lower atmosphere rather than the aerosol number concentration. However, lower precipitation rates are associated with higher aerosol number concentrations for clouds with similar vertical extent. The combination of these ground-based and remote-sensing datasets provides a unique long-term study of the effects of aerosols on convective clouds over the Nordic countries.

Final-revised paper