Articles | Volume 16, issue 9
Research article
17 May 2016
Research article |  | 17 May 2016

Effects of aerosols on clear-sky solar radiation in the ALADIN-HIRLAM NWP system

Emily Gleeson, Velle Toll, Kristian Pagh Nielsen, Laura Rontu, and Ján Mašek

Abstract. The direct shortwave radiative effect of aerosols under clear-sky conditions in the Aire Limitee Adaptation dynamique Developpement InterNational – High Resolution Limited Area Model (ALADIN-HIRLAM) numerical weather prediction system was investigated using three shortwave radiation schemes in diagnostic single-column experiments: the Integrated Forecast System (IFS), acraneb2 and the hlradia radiation schemes. The multi-band IFS scheme was formerly used operationally by the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) whereas hlradia and acraneb2 are broadband schemes. The former is a new version of the HIRLAM radiation scheme while acraneb2 is the radiation scheme in the ALARO-1 physics package.

The aim was to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the numerical weather prediction (NWP) system regarding aerosols and to prepare it for use of real-time aerosol information. The experiments were run with particular focus on the August 2010 Russian wildfire case. Each of the three radiation schemes accurately (within ±4 % at midday) simulates the direct shortwave aerosol effect when observed aerosol optical properties are used. When the aerosols were excluded from the simulations, errors of more than +15 % in global shortwave irradiance were found at midday, with the error reduced to +10 % when standard climatological aerosols were used. An error of −11 % was seen at midday if only observed aerosol optical depths at 550 nm, and not observation-based spectral dependence of aerosol optical depth, single scattering albedos and asymmetry factors, were included in the simulations. This demonstrates the importance of using the correct aerosol optical properties. The dependency of the direct radiative effect of aerosols on relative humidity was tested and shown to be within ±6 % in this case. By modifying the assumptions about the shape of the IFS climatological vertical aerosol profile, the inherent uncertainties associated with assuming fixed vertical profiles were investigated. The shortwave heating rates in the boundary layer changed by up to a factor of 2 in response to the aerosol vertical distribution without changing the total aerosol optical depth. Finally, we tested the radiative transfer approximations used in the three radiation schemes for typical aerosol optical properties compared to the accurate DISORT model. These approximations are found to be accurate to within ±13 % even for large aerosol loads.

Short summary
The direct shortwave (SW) radiative effect of aerosols under clear-sky conditions in the ALADIN-HIRLAM numerical weather prediction system was investigated using three SW radiation schemes in diagnostic single-column experiments. Each scheme accurately simulates the direct SW effect when observed aerosols are used, particularly for heavy pollution scenarios.
Final-revised paper