Articles | Volume 15, issue 21
Research article
05 Nov 2015
Research article |  | 05 Nov 2015

Impacts of Amazonia biomass burning aerosols assessed from short-range weather forecasts

S. R. Kolusu, J. H. Marsham, J. Mulcahy, B. Johnson, C. Dunning, M. Bush, and D. V. Spracklen

Abstract. The direct radiative impacts of biomass burning aerosols (BBA) on meteorology are investigated using short-range forecasts from the Met Office Unified Model (MetUM) over South America during the South American Biomass Burning Analysis (SAMBBA). The impacts are evaluated using a set of three simulations: (i) no aerosols, (ii) with monthly mean aerosol climatologies and (iii) with prognostic aerosols modelled using the Coupled Large-scale Aerosol Simulator for Studies In Climate (CLASSIC) scheme. Comparison with observations show that the prognostic CLASSIC scheme provides the best representation of BBA. The impacts of BBA are quantified over central and southern Amazonia from the first and second day of 2-day forecasts during 14 September–3 October 2012. On average, during the first day of the forecast, including prognostic BBA reduces the clear-sky net radiation at the surface by 15 ± 1 W m−2 and reduces net top-of-atmosphere (TOA) radiation by 8 ± 1 W m−2, with a direct atmospheric warming of 7 ± 1 W m−2. BBA-induced reductions in all-sky radiation are smaller in magnitude: 9.0 ± 1 W m−2 at the surface and 4.0 ± 1 W m−2 at TOA. In this modelling study the BBA therefore exert an overall cooling influence on the Earth–atmosphere system, although some levels of the atmosphere are directly warmed by the absorption of solar radiation. Due to the reduction of net radiative flux at the surface, the mean 2 m air temperature is reduced by around 0.1 ± 0.02 °C. The BBA also cools the boundary layer (BL) but warms air above by around 0.2 °C due to the absorption of shortwave radiation. The overall impact is to reduce the BL depth by around 19 ± 8 m. These differences in heating lead to a more anticyclonic circulation at 700 hPa, with winds changing by around 0.6 m s−1. Inclusion of climatological or prognostic BBA in the MetUM makes a small but significant improvement in forecasts of temperature and relative humidity, but improvements were small compare with model error and the relative increase in forecast skill from the prognostic aerosol simulation over the aerosol climatology was also small. Locally, on a 150 km scale, changes in precipitation reach around 4 mm day−1 due to changes in the location of convection. Over Amazonia, including BBA in the simulation led to fewer rain events that were more intense. This change may be linked to the BBA changing the vertical profile of stability in the lower atmosphere. The localised changes in rainfall tend to average out to give a 5 % (0.06 mm day−1) decrease in total precipitation over the Amazonian region (except on day 2 with prognostic BBA). The change in water budget from BBA is, however, dominated by decreased evapotranspiration from the reduced net surface fluxes (0.2 to 0.3 mm day−1), since this term is larger than the corresponding changes in precipitation and water vapour convergence.

Final-revised paper