Articles | Volume 17, issue 12
Research article
20 Jun 2017
Research article |  | 20 Jun 2017

Aerosol effects on the development of cumulus clouds over the Tibetan Plateau

Xu Zhou, Naifang Bei, Hongli Liu, Junji Cao, Li Xing, Wenfang Lei, Luisa T. Molina, and Guohui Li

Abstract. The aerosol–cloud interaction over the Tibetan Plateau has been investigated using a cloud-resolving weather research and forecasting model with a two-moment bulk microphysical scheme including aerosol effects on cloud condensation nuclei and ice nuclei. Two types of cumulus clouds with a similar convective available potential energy, occurring over the Tibetan Plateau (Cu-TP) and North China Plain (Cu-NCP) in August 2014, are simulated to explore the response of convective clouds to aerosols. A set of aerosol profiles is used in the simulations, with the surface aerosol number concentration varying from 20 to 9000 cm−3 and the sulfate mass concentration varying from 0.02 to 9.0 µg cm−3. Increasing aerosol concentrations generally enhances the cloud core updraft and maximum updraft, intensifying convections in Cu-TP and Cu-NCP. However, the core updraft is much stronger in Cu-TP than Cu-NCP, because of the early occurrence of the glaciation process in Cu-TP that is triggered at an elevation above 4000 m. The precipitation increases steadily with aerosol concentrations in Cu-NCP, caused by the suppression of the warm rain but occurrence of efficient mix-phased precipitation due to the reduced cloud droplet size. The precipitation in Cu-TP also increases with aerosol concentrations, but the precipitation enhancement is not substantial compared to that in Cu-NCP with high aerosol concentrations. The aerosol-induced intensification of convections in Cu-TP not only facilitates the precipitation but also transports more ice-phase hydrometeors into the upper troposphere to decrease the precipitation efficiency. Considering the very clean atmosphere over the Tibetan Plateau, elevated aerosol concentrations can remarkably enhance convections due to its specific topography, which not only warms the middle troposphere to influence the Asian summer monsoon but also delivers hydrometeors into the upper troposphere to allow more water vapor to travel into the lower stratosphere.

Final-revised paper