Articles | Volume 17, issue 8
Research article
21 Apr 2017
Research article |  | 21 Apr 2017

Investigation of the aerosol–cloud–rainfall association over the Indian summer monsoon region

Chandan Sarangi, Sachchida Nand Tripathi, Vijay P. Kanawade, Ilan Koren, and D. Sivanand Pai

Abstract. Monsoonal rainfall is the primary source of surface water in India. Using 12 years of in situ and satellite observations, we examined the association of aerosol loading with cloud fraction, cloud top pressure, cloud top temperature, and daily surface rainfall over the Indian summer monsoon region (ISMR). Our results showed positive correlations between aerosol loading and cloud properties as well as rainfall. A decrease in outgoing longwave radiation and an increase in reflected shortwave radiation at the top of the atmosphere with an increase in aerosol loading further indicates a possible seminal role of aerosols in the deepening of cloud systems. Significant perturbation in liquid- and ice-phase microphysics was also evident over the ISMR. For the polluted cases, delay in the onset of collision–coalescence processes and an enhancement in the condensation efficiency allows for more condensate mass to be lifted up to the mixed colder phases. This results in the higher mass concentration of larger-sized ice-phase hydrometeors and, therefore, implies that the delayed rain processes eventually lead to more surface rainfall. A numerical simulation of a typical rainfall event case over the ISMR using a spectral bin microphysical scheme coupled with the Weather Research Forecasting (WRF-SBM) model was also performed. Simulated microphysics also illustrated that the initial suppression of warm rain coupled with an increase in updraft velocity under high aerosol loading leads to enhanced super-cooled liquid droplets above freezing level and ice-phase hydrometeors, resulting in increased accumulated surface rainfall. Thus, both observational and numerical analysis suggest that high aerosol loading may induce cloud invigoration, thereby increasing surface rainfall over the ISMR. While the meteorological variability influences the strength of the observed positive association, our results suggest that the persistent aerosol-associated deepening of cloud systems and an intensification of surface rain amounts was applicable to all the meteorological sub-regimes over the ISMR. Hence, we believe that these results provide a step forward in our ability to address aerosol–cloud–rainfall associations based on satellite observations over the ISMR.

Short summary
Aerosol-induced perturbations in cloud systems and rainfall are very uncertain. This study provides observational evidence of a robust positive association between aerosol–cloud–rainfall properties over the Indian summer monsoon region. Observed and modeled aerosol–cloud microphysical changes illustrate that cloud invigoration under a high AOD scenario can explain most of the aerosol-associated changes in cloud fraction, cloud top pressure, and surface rainfall over this region.
Final-revised paper