Articles | Volume 23, issue 7
ACP Letters
 | Highlight paper
05 Apr 2023
ACP Letters | Highlight paper |  | 05 Apr 2023

Uncertainty in aerosol–cloud radiative forcing is driven by clean conditions

Edward Gryspeerdt, Adam C. Povey, Roy G. Grainger, Otto Hasekamp, N. Christina Hsu, Jane P. Mulcahy, Andrew M. Sayer, and Armin Sorooshian


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Executive editor
Relative absence of something is often more difficult to quantify than its presence. This paper uses satellite observations and global model data to show that it is uncertainties in the quantification of clean-sky conditions that contribute most to current uncertainties in estimates of the sensitivity of cloud properties to varying degrees of aerosol loading. This is a novel result that should prove of broad interest to the aerosol-cloud-climate community for reframing how the problem is approached, by focusing on improved quantification of clean conditions.
Short summary
The impact of aerosols on clouds is one of the largest uncertainties in the human forcing of the climate. Aerosol can increase the concentrations of droplets in clouds, but observational and model studies produce widely varying estimates of this effect. We show that these estimates can be reconciled if only polluted clouds are studied, but this is insufficient to constrain the climate impact of aerosol. The uncertainty in aerosol impact on clouds is currently driven by cases with little aerosol.
Final-revised paper