Changes in atmospheric aerosol loading retrieved from space-based measurements during the past decade
Abstract. The role and potential management of short-lived atmospheric pollutants such as aerosols are currently a topic of scientific and public debates. Our limited knowledge of atmospheric aerosol and its influence on the Earth's radiation balance has a significant impact on the accuracy and error of current predictions of future climate change. In the last few years, there have been several accounts of the changes in atmospheric aerosol derived from satellite observations, but no study considering the uncertainty caused by different/limited temporal sampling of polar-orbiting satellites and cloud disturbance in the trend estimates of cloud-free aerosol optical thickness (AOT). This study presents an approach to minimize the uncertainties by use of weighted least-squares regression and multiple satellite-derived AOTs from the space-born instruments, MODIS (onboard Terra from 2000 to 2009 and Aqua form 2003 to 2008), MISR (Terra from 2000 to 2010), and SeaWiFS (OrbView-2 from 1998 to 2007) and thereby provides more convincing trend estimates for atmospheric aerosols during the past decade. The AOT decreases over western Europe (i.e., by up to about −40% from 2003 to 2008). In contrast, a statistically significant increase (about +34% in the same period) over eastern China is observed and can be attributed to the increase in both industrial output and Asian desert dust.