Articles | Volume 14, issue 18
Research article
16 Sep 2014
Research article |  | 16 Sep 2014

Links between satellite-retrieved aerosol and precipitation

E. Gryspeerdt, P. Stier, and D. G. Partridge

Abstract. Many theories have been proposed detailing how aerosols might impact precipitation, predicting both increases and decreases depending on the prevailing meteorological conditions and aerosol type. In convective clouds, increased aerosol concentrations have been speculated to invigorate convective activity. Previous studies have shown large increases in precipitation with increasing aerosol optical depth, concluding an aerosol effect on precipitation. Our analysis reveals that these studies may have been influenced by cloud effects on the retrieved aerosol, as well as by meteorological covariations.

We use a regime-based approach to separate out different cloud regimes, allowing for the study of aerosol–cloud interactions in individual cloud regimes. We account for the influence of cloud properties on the aerosol retrieval and make use of the diurnal sampling of the TRMM satellite and the TRMM merged precipitation product to investigate the precipitation development.

We find that whilst there is little effect on precipitation at the time of the aerosol retrieval, in the 6 h after the aerosol retrieval, there is an increase in precipitation from cloud in high-aerosol environments, consistent with the invigoration hypothesis. Increases in lightning flash count with increased aerosol are also observed in this period. The invigoration effect appears to be dependent on the cloud-top temperature, with clouds with tops colder than 0 °C showing increases in precipitation at times after the retrieval, as well as increases in wet scavenging. Warm clouds show little change in precipitation development with increasing aerosol, suggesting ice processes are important for the invigoration of precipitation.

Final-revised paper