Articles | Volume 5, issue 3
Model description paper
18 Jun 2012
Model description paper |  | 18 Jun 2012

Evaluation of the sectional aerosol microphysics module SALSA implementation in ECHAM5-HAM aerosol-climate model

T. Bergman, V.-M. Kerminen, H. Korhonen, K. J. Lehtinen, R. Makkonen, A. Arola, T. Mielonen, S. Romakkaniemi, M. Kulmala, and H. Kokkola

Abstract. We present the implementation and evaluation of a sectional aerosol microphysics module SALSA within the aerosol-climate model ECHAM5-HAM. This aerosol microphysics module has been designed to be flexible and computationally efficient so that it can be implemented in regional or global scale models. The computational efficiency has been achieved by minimising the number of variables needed to describe the size and composition distribution. The aerosol size distribution is described using 10 size classes with parallel sections which can have different chemical compositions. Thus in total, the module tracks 20 size sections which cover diameters ranging from 3 nm to 10 μm and are divided into three subranges, each with an optimised selection of processes and compounds.

The implementation of SALSA into ECHAM5-HAM includes the main aerosol processes in the atmosphere: emissions, removal, radiative effects, liquid and gas phase sulphate chemistry, and the aerosol microphysics. The aerosol compounds treated in the module are sulphate, organic carbon, sea salt, black carbon, and mineral dust. In its default configuration, ECHAM5-HAM treats aerosol size distribution using the modal method. In this implementation, the aerosol processes were converted to be used in a sectional model framework.

The ability of the module to describe the global aerosol properties was evaluated by comparing against (1) measured continental and marine size distributions, (2) observed variability of continental number concentrations, (3) measured sulphate, organic carbon, black carbon and sea-salt mass concentrations, (4) observations of aerosol optical depth (AOD) and other aerosol optical properties from satellites and AERONET network, (5) global aerosol budgets and concentrations from previous model studies, and (6) model results using M7, which is the default aerosol microphysics module in ECHAM5-HAM.

The evaluation shows that the global aerosol properties can be reproduced reasonably well using a coarse resolution of 10 sections in size space. The simulated global aerosol budgets are within the range of previous studies. Surface concentrations of sulphate and carbonaceous species have an annual mean within a factor of two of the observations. The simulated sea-salt concentrations reproduce the observations within a factor of two, apart from the Southern Ocean over which the concentrations are within a factor of five. Regionally, AOD is in a relatively good agreement with the observations (within a factor of two). At mid-latitudes the observed AOD is captured well, while at high-latitudes as well as in some polluted and dust regions the modelled AOD is significantly lower than observed.

Regarding most of the investigated aerosol properties, the SALSA and the modal aerosol module M7 perform comparably well against observations. However, SALSA reproduces the observed number concentrations and the size distribution of CCN sized particles much more accurately than M7, and is therefore a good choice for aerosol-cloud interaction studies in global models. Our study also shows that when activation type nucleation in the boundary layer is included, the observed concentration of particles under 50 nm in diameter are reproduced much better compared to when only binary nucleation in the free troposphere is assumed.