Articles | Volume 17, issue 10
Research article
22 May 2017
Research article |  | 22 May 2017

Effect of anthropogenic aerosol emissions on precipitation in warm conveyor belts in the western North Pacific in winter – a model study with ECHAM6-HAM

Hanna Joos, Erica Madonna, Kasja Witlox, Sylvaine Ferrachat, Heini Wernli, and Ulrike Lohmann

Abstract. While there is a clear impact of aerosol particles on the radiation balance, whether and how aerosol particles influence precipitation is controversial. Here we use the ECHAM6-HAM global climate model coupled to an aerosol module to analyse whether an impact of anthropogenic aerosol particles on the timing and amount of precipitation can be detected in North Pacific warm conveyor belts. Warm conveyor belts are the strongest precipitation-producing airstreams in extratropical cyclones and are identified here with a Lagrangian technique, i.e. by objectively identifying the most strongly ascending trajectories in North Pacific cyclones. These conveyor belts have been identified separately in 10-year ECHAM6-HAM simulations with present-day and pre-industrial aerosol conditions. Then, the evolution of aerosols and cloud properties has been analysed in detail along the identified warm conveyor belt trajectories. The results show that, under present-day conditions, some warm conveyor belt trajectories are strongly polluted (i.e. high concentrations of black carbon and sulfur dioxide) due to horizontal transport from eastern Asia to the oceanic region where warm conveyor belts start their ascent. In these polluted trajectories a weak delay and reduction of precipitation formation occurs compared to clean warm conveyor belt trajectories. However, all warm conveyor belts consist of both polluted and clean trajectories at the time they start their ascent, and the typically more abundant clean trajectories strongly reduce the aerosol impact from the polluted trajectories. The main conclusion then is that the overall amount of precipitation is comparable in pre-industrial conditions, when all warm conveyor belt trajectories are clean, and in present-day conditions, when warm conveyor belts consist of a mixture of clean and polluted trajectories.

Short summary
The influence of pollution on the precipitation formation in warm conveyor belts (WCBs), the most rising air streams in low-pressure systems is investigated. We investigate in detail the cloud properties and resulting precipitation along these rising airstreams which are simulated with a global climate model. Overall, no big impact of aerosols on precipitation can be seen, however, when comparing the most polluted/cleanest WCBs, a suppression of precipitation by aerosols is observed.
Final-revised paper