Long-term aerosol-mediated changes in cloud radiative forcing of deep clouds at the top and bottom of the atmosphere over the Southern Great Plains
Abstract. Aerosols can alter the macro- and micro-physical properties of deep convective clouds (DCCs) and their radiative forcing (CRF). This study presents what is arguably the first long-term estimate of the aerosol-mediated changes in CRF (AMCRF) for deep cloud systems derived from decade-long continuous ground-based and satellite observations, model simulations, and reanalysis data. Measurements were made at the US Department of Energy's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program's Southern Great Plains (SGP) site. Satellite retrievals are from the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite. Increases in aerosol loading were accompanied by the thickening of DCC cores and the expansion and thinning of anvils, due presumably to the aerosol invigoration effect (AIV) and the aerosol microphysical effect. Meteorological variables dictating these cloud processes were investigated. Consistent with previous findings, the AIV is most significant when the atmosphere is moist and unstable with weak wind shear. Such aerosol-mediated systematic changes in DCC core thickness and anvil size alter CRF at the top of atmosphere (TOA) and at the surface. Using extensive observations, ~300 DCC systems were identified over a 10 years period at the SGP site (2000–2011) and analyzed. Daily mean AMCRF at the TOA and at the surface are 29.3 W m−2 and 22.2 W m−2, respectively. This net warming effect due to changes in DCC microphysics offsets the cooling resulting from the first aerosol indirect effect.