Subgrid-scale variability in clear-sky relative humidity and forcing by aerosol–radiation interactions in an atmosphere model
Abstract. Atmosphere models with resolutions of several tens of kilometres take subgrid-scale variability in the total specific humidity qt into account by using a uniform probability density function (PDF) to predict fractional cloud cover. However, usually only mean relative humidity, RH, or mean clear-sky relative humidity, RHcls, is used to compute hygroscopic growth of soluble aerosol particles. While previous studies based on limited-area models and also a global model suggest that subgrid-scale variability in RH should be taken into account for estimating radiative forcing due to aerosol–radiation interactions (RFari), here we present the first estimate of RFari using a global atmospheric model with a parameterization for subgrid-scale variability in RH that is consistent with the assumptions in the model. For this, we sample the subsaturated part of the uniform RH-PDF from the cloud cover scheme for its application in the hygroscopic growth parameterization in the ECHAM6-HAM2 atmosphere model. Due to the non-linear dependence of the hygroscopic growth on RH, this causes an increase in aerosol hygroscopic growth. Aerosol optical depth (AOD) increases by a global mean of 0.009 ( ∼ 7.8 % in comparison to the control run). Especially over the tropics AOD is enhanced with a mean of about 0.013. Due to the increase in AOD, net top of the atmosphere clear-sky solar radiation, SWnet, cls, decreases by −0.22 W m−2 ( ∼ −0.08 %). Finally, the RFari changes from −0.15 to −0.19 W m−2 by about 31 %. The reason for this very disproportionate effect is that anthropogenic aerosols are disproportionally hygroscopic.