Articles | Volume 15, issue 4
Research article
27 Feb 2015
Research article |  | 27 Feb 2015

Real-case simulations of aerosol–cloud interactions in ship tracks over the Bay of Biscay

A. Possner, E. Zubler, U. Lohmann, and C. Schär

Abstract. Ship tracks provide an ideal test bed for studying aerosol–cloud interactions (ACIs) and for evaluating their representation in model parameterisations. Regional modelling can be of particular use for this task, as this approach provides sufficient resolution to resolve the structure of the produced track including their meteorological environment whilst relying on the same formulations of parameterisations as many general circulation models. In this work we simulate a particular case of ship tracks embedded in an optically thin stratus cloud sheet which was observed by a polar orbiting satellite at 12:00 UTC on 26 January 2003 around the Bay of Biscay.

The simulations, which include moving ship emissions, show that the model is indeed able to capture the structure of the track at a horizontal grid spacing of 2 km and to qualitatively capture the observed cloud response in all simulations performed. At least a doubling of the cloud optical thickness was simulated in all simulations together with an increase in cloud droplet number concentration by about 40 cm−3 (300%) and decrease in effective radius by about 5 μm (40%). Furthermore, the ship emissions lead to an increase in liquid water path in at least 25% of the track regions.

We are confident in the model's ability to capture key processes of ship track formation. However, it was found that realistic ship emissions lead to unrealistic aerosol perturbations near the source regions within the simulated tracks due to grid-scale dilution and homogeneity.

Combining the regional-modelling approach with comprehensive field studies could likely improve our understanding of the sensitivities and biases in ACI parameterisations, and could therefore help to constrain global ACI estimates, which strongly rely on these parameterisations.

Short summary
For the first time, real-case simulations of ship tracks are performed at the 2km scale and evaluated against observations. Simulations show that ship tracks are quantitatively and qualitatively captured by the model. Therefore, this approach could be used to evaluate the interplay between parameterisations for aerosol–cloud interactions which occur, in the case of ship tracks, in spatially defined regions and under constrained environmental conditions.
Final-revised paper