Articles | Volume 6, issue 3
Development and technical paper
05 Jun 2013
Development and technical paper |  | 05 Jun 2013

Sensitivity of remote aerosol distributions to representation of cloud–aerosol interactions in a global climate model

H. Wang, R. C. Easter, P. J. Rasch, M. Wang, X. Liu, S. J. Ghan, Y. Qian, J.-H. Yoon, P.-L. Ma, and V. Vinoj

Abstract. Many global aerosol and climate models, including the widely used Community Atmosphere Model version 5 (CAM5), have large biases in predicting aerosols in remote regions such as the upper troposphere and high latitudes. In this study, we conduct CAM5 sensitivity simulations to understand the role of key processes associated with aerosol transformation and wet removal affecting the vertical and horizontal long-range transport of aerosols to the remote regions. Improvements are made to processes that are currently not well represented in CAM5, which are guided by surface and aircraft measurements together with results from a multi-scale aerosol–climate model that explicitly represents convection and aerosol–cloud interactions at cloud-resolving scales. We pay particular attention to black carbon (BC) due to its importance in the Earth system and the availability of measurements.

We introduce into CAM5 a new unified scheme for convective transport and aerosol wet removal with explicit aerosol activation above convective cloud base. This new implementation reduces the excessive BC aloft to better simulate observed BC profiles that show decreasing mixing ratios in the mid- to upper-troposphere. After implementing this new unified convective scheme, we examine wet removal of submicron aerosols that occurs primarily through cloud processes. The wet removal depends strongly on the subgrid-scale liquid cloud fraction and the rate of conversion of liquid water to precipitation. These processes lead to very strong wet removal of BC and other aerosols over mid- to high latitudes during winter months. With our improvements, the Arctic BC burden has a 10-fold (5-fold) increase in the winter (summer) months, resulting in a much-better simulation of the BC seasonal cycle as well. Arctic sulphate and other aerosol species also increase but to a lesser extent. An explicit treatment of BC aging with slower aging assumptions produces an additional 30-fold (5-fold) increase in the Arctic winter (summer) BC burden. This BC aging treatment, however, has minimal effect on other underpredicted species. Interestingly, our modifications to CAM5 that aim at improving prediction of high-latitude and upper-tropospheric aerosols also produce much-better aerosol optical depth (AOD) over various other regions globally when compared to multi-year AERONET retrievals. The improved aerosol distributions have impacts on other aspects of CAM5, improving the simulation of global mean liquid water path and cloud forcing.