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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  03 Nov 2020

03 Nov 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Constraints on global aerosol number concentration, SO2 and condensation sink in UKESM1 using ATom measurements

Ananth Ranjithkumar1, Hamish Gordon2,1, Christina Williamson3,4, Andrew Rollins3, Kirsty J. Pringle1, Agnieszka Kupc4,5, Nathan Luke Abraham6,7, Charles A. Brock4, and Kenneth S. Carslaw1 Ananth Ranjithkumar et al.
  • 1School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT, United Kingdom
  • 2Engineering Research Accelerator and Centre for Atmospheric Particle Studies, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, 15213, USA
  • 3Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
  • 4NOAA Chemical Sciences Laboratory, Boulder, CO 80305, USA
  • 5Faculty of Physics, Aerosol Physics and Environmental Physics, University of Vienna, 1090 Vienna, Austria
  • 6National Centre for Atmospheric Science, UK
  • 7Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

Abstract. Understanding the vertical distribution of aerosol helps to reduce the uncertainty in the aerosol lifecycle and therefore in the estimation of the direct and indirect aerosol forcing. To improve our understanding, we use measurements from four deployments of the Atmospheric Tomography (ATom) field campaign (ATom1-4) which systematically sampled data over the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans with near pole-to-pole coverage. We evaluate the UK Earth system model (UKESM1) against ATom observations in terms of joint biases in the vertical profile of three variables related to new particle formation: total particle number concentration (NTotal), sulphur dioxide (SO2) mixing ratio and the condensation sink. The NTotal, SO2 and condensation sink are interdependent quantities and have a controlling influence on the vertical profile of each other. Improving only one of these quantities in comparison with observations can lead to a misleading impression that overall model performance has improved. Analysing NTotal, SO2 and condensation sink simultaneously helps reduce the probability of getting the right answer for the wrong reasons. The model's condensation sink is within a factor of 2 of observations, but the NTotal and SO2 shows larger biases mainly in the tropics and high latitudes. Algorithmic improvements to the model and perturbations to key atmospheric processes help reduce tropospheric model biases consistently. We performed a series of model sensitivity tests to identify atmospheric processes that have the strongest influence on overall model performance (NTotal, SO2 and condensation sink simultaneously). In the boundary layer (which we define in this study as below 1 km altitude) and lower troposphere (1–4 km) inclusion of a boundary layer nucleation scheme (Metzger et al., 2010), which is switched off in the default version of UKESM, is critical to obtaining better agreement with observations. However, in the mid (4–8 km) and upper troposphere (> 8 km), sub-3 nm particle growth, pH of cloud droplets, DMS emissions, upper tropospheric nucleation rate, SO2 gas scavenging rate and cloud erosion rate are found to play a more dominant role. Analysing the data with altitude, we find that perturbations to boundary layer nucleation, sub 3 nm growth, cloud droplet pH and DMS emissions reduces the boundary layer and upper tropospheric model bias. We performed a combined simulation with all 4 perturbations included and found that the model's NTotal, SO2 and condensation sink biases were reduced in most cases (up to a 50 % reduction) in both the boundary layer and upper troposphere simultaneously. These perturbations are well-motivated in that they improve the physical basis of the model and are suitable for implementation in future versions of UKESM.

Ananth Ranjithkumar et al.

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Ananth Ranjithkumar et al.

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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
The effect aerosols have on climate can be better understood by studying their vertical and spatial distribution throughout the atmosphere. We use observation data from the ATom Campaign and evaluate the vertical profile of aerosol number concentration, Sulphur dioxide and condensation sink using UKESM (UK earth system model). We identify uncertainties in key atmospheric processes that help improve their theoretical representation in global climate models.
The effect aerosols have on climate can be better understood by studying their vertical and...