Direct radiative effect by brown carbon over the Indo-Gangetic Plain
Abstract. The importance of light-absorbing organic aerosols, often called brown carbon (BrC), has become evident in recent years. However, there have been relatively few measurement-based estimates for the direct radiative effect of BrC so far. In earlier studies, the AErosol RObotic NETwork (AERONET)-measured aerosol absorption optical depth (AAOD) and absorption Angstrom exponent (AAE) were exploited. However, these two pieces of information are clearly not sufficient to separate properly carbonaceous aerosols from dust, while imaginary indices of refraction would contain more and better justified information for this purpose. This is first time that the direct radiative effect (DRE) of BrC is estimated by exploiting the AERONET-retrieved imaginary indices. We estimated it for four sites in the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP), Karachi, Lahore, Kanpur and Gandhi College. We found a distinct seasonality, which was generally similar among all the sites, but with slightly different strengths. The monthly warming effect up to 0.5 W m−2 takes place during the spring season. On the other hand, BrC results in an overall cooling effect in the winter season, which can reach levels close to −1 W m−2. We then estimated similarly also the DRE of black carbon and total aerosol, in order to assess the relative significance of the BrC radiative effect in the radiative effects of other components. Even though BrC impact seems minor in this context, we demonstrated that it is not insignificant. Moreover, we demonstrated that it is crucial to perform spectrally resolved radiative transfer calculations to obtain good estimates for the DRE of BrC.