30 May 2022
30 May 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Microphysical, macrophysical and radiative responses of subtropical marine clouds to aerosol injections

Je-Yun Chun1, Robert Wood1, Peter Blossey1, and Sarah J. Doherty1,2 Je-Yun Chun et al.
  • 1Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, USA
  • 2Cooperative Institute for Climate, Ocean and Ecosystem Studies, University of Washington, Seattle, USA

Abstract. Ship tracks in subtropical marine low clouds are simulated and investigated using large eddy simulations. Five variants of a shallow subtropical stratocumulus-topped marine boundary layer (MBL) are chosen to span a range of background aerosol concentrations and variations in free-tropospheric (FT) moisture. Idealized time-invariant meteorological forcings and approximately steady-state aerosol concentrations constitute the background conditions. We investigate processes controlling cloud microphysical, macrophysical and radiative responses to aerosol injections. For the analysis, we use novel methods to decompose the liquid water path (LWP) adjustment into changes in cloud properties, and the cloud radiative effect (CRE) into contributions by cloud macro- and microphysics. The key results are that (a) the cloud top entrainment rate increases in all cases, with stronger increases for thicker than thinner clouds; (b) the drying and warming induced by increased entrainment is offset to differing degrees by corresponding responses in surface fluxes, precipitation and radiation; (c) MBL turbulence responds to changes caused by the aerosol perturbation, and this significantly affects cloud macrophysics; (d) across two days' simulation, clouds were brightened in all cases. In a pristine MBL, significant drizzle suppression by aerosol injections results not only in greater water retention, but also in turbulence intensification, leading to a significant increase in cloud amount. In this case, Twomey brightening is strongly augmented by an increase in cloud thickness and cover. In addition, a reduction in the loss of aerosol through coalescence scavenging more than offsets the entrainment dilution. This interplay precludes estimation of the lifetime of the aerosol perturbation. The combined responses of cloud macro- and microphysics lead to 10–100 times more effective cloud brightening in these cases relative to those in the non-precipitating MBL cases. In moderate and polluted MBLs entrainment enhancement makes the boundary layer drier, warmer and more stratified, leading to a decrease in cloud thickness. Counterintuitively, this LWP response offsets the greatest fraction of the Twomey brightening in a moderately moist free troposphere. This finding differs from previous studies which found larger offsets in a drier free troposphere, and results from a greater entrainment enhancement in initially thicker clouds, so the offsetting effects are weaker. The injected aerosol lifetime in cases with polluted MBLs is estimated as 2–3 days, which is longer than the estimates from satellite images.

Je-Yun Chun et al.

Status: open (until 12 Jul 2022)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on acp-2022-351', Anonymous Referee #1, 24 Jun 2022 reply

Je-Yun Chun et al.

Je-Yun Chun et al.


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Short summary
We investigate the impact of injected aerosol on subtropical low marine clouds under a variety of meteorological conditions using high-resolution model simulations. This study illustrates processes perturbed by aerosol injections and their impact on cloud properties (e.g., cloud number concentration, thickness and cover). We show that those responses are highly sensitive to background meteorological conditions, such as precipitation, background cloud properties.