Articles | Volume 15, issue 16
Research article
25 Aug 2015
Research article |  | 25 Aug 2015

Modelled and observed changes in aerosols and surface solar radiation over Europe between 1960 and 2009

S. T. Turnock, D. V. Spracklen, K. S. Carslaw, G. W. Mann, M. T. Woodhouse, P. M. Forster, J. Haywood, C. E. Johnson, M. Dalvi, N. Bellouin, and A. Sanchez-Lorenzo

Abstract. Substantial changes in anthropogenic aerosols and precursor gas emissions have occurred over recent decades due to the implementation of air pollution control legislation and economic growth. The response of atmospheric aerosols to these changes and the impact on climate are poorly constrained, particularly in studies using detailed aerosol chemistry–climate models. Here we compare the HadGEM3-UKCA (Hadley Centre Global Environment Model-United Kingdom Chemistry and Aerosols) coupled chemistry–climate model for the period 1960–2009 against extensive ground-based observations of sulfate aerosol mass (1978–2009), total suspended particle matter (SPM, 1978–1998), PM10 (1997–2009), aerosol optical depth (AOD, 2000–2009), aerosol size distributions (2008–2009) and surface solar radiation (SSR, 1960–2009) over Europe. The model underestimates observed sulfate aerosol mass (normalised mean bias factor (NMBF) = −0.4), SPM (NMBF = −0.9), PM10 (NMBF = −0.2), aerosol number concentrations (N30 NMBF = −0.85; N50 NMBF = −0.65; and N100 NMBF = −0.96) and AOD (NMBF = −0.01) but slightly overpredicts SSR (NMBF = 0.02). Trends in aerosol over the observational period are well simulated by the model, with observed (simulated) changes in sulfate of −68 % (−78 %), SPM of −42 % (−20 %), PM10 of −9 % (−8 %) and AOD of −11 % (−14 %). Discrepancies in the magnitude of simulated aerosol mass do not affect the ability of the model to reproduce the observed SSR trends. The positive change in observed European SSR (5 %) during 1990–2009 ("brightening") is better reproduced by the model when aerosol radiative effects (ARE) are included (3 %), compared to simulations where ARE are excluded (0.2 %). The simulated top-of-the-atmosphere aerosol radiative forcing over Europe under all-sky conditions increased by > 3.0 W m−2 during the period 1970–2009 in response to changes in anthropogenic emissions and aerosol concentrations.

Short summary
We evaluate HadGEM3-UKCA over Europe for the period 1960-2009 against observations of aerosol mass and number, aerosol optical depth (AOD) and surface solar radiation (SSR). The model underestimates aerosol mass and number but is less biased if compared to AOD and SSR. Observed trends in aerosols are well simulated by the model and necessary for reproducing the observed increase in SSR since 1990. European all-sky top of atmosphere aerosol radiative forcing increased by > 3 Wm-2 from 1970 to 2009.
Final-revised paper