Putting the clouds back in aerosol–cloud interactions
- National Center for Atmospheric Research, 1850 Table Mesa Dr., Boulder, CO 80305, USA
Abstract. Aerosol–cloud interactions (ACI) are the consequence of perturbed aerosols affecting cloud drop and crystal number, with corresponding microphysical and radiative effects. ACI are sensitive to both cloud microphysical processes (the "C" in ACI) and aerosol emissions and processes (the "A" in ACI). This work highlights the importance of cloud microphysical processes, using idealized and global tests of a cloud microphysics scheme used for global climate prediction. Uncertainties in key cloud microphysical processes examined with sensitivity tests cause uncertainties of nearly −30 to +60 % in ACI, similar to or stronger than uncertainties identified due to natural aerosol emissions (−30 to +30 %). The different dimensions and sensitivities of ACI to microphysical processes identified in previous work are analyzed in detail, showing that precipitation processes are critical for understanding ACI and that uncertain cloud lifetime effects are nearly one-third of simulated ACI. Buffering of different processes is important, as is the mixed phase and coupling of the microphysics to the condensation and turbulence schemes in the model.