High Sensitivity of Arctic Liquid Clouds to Long-Range Anthropogenic Aerosol Transport

Q. Coopman*, T. J. Garrett, D. P. Finch, J. Riedi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The rate of warming in the Arctic depends upon the response of low-level microphysical and radiative cloud properties to aerosols advected from distant anthropogenic and biomass-burning sources. Cloud droplet cross-section density increases with higher concentrations of cloud condensation nuclei, leading to an increase of cloud droplet absorption and scattering radiative cross sections. The challenge of assessing the magnitude of the effect has been decoupling the aerosol impacts on clouds from how clouds change solely due to natural meteorological variability. Here we address this issue with large, multi-year satellite, meteorological, and tracer transport model data sets to show that the response of low-level clouds in the Arctic to anthropogenic aerosols lies close to a theoretical maximum and is between 2 and 8 times higher than has been observed elsewhere. However, a previously described response of arctic clouds to biomass-burning plumes appears to be overstated because the interactions are rare and modification of cloud radiative properties appears better explained by coincident changes in temperature, humidity, and atmospheric stability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)372-381
Number of pages10
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number1
Early online date9 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jan 2018

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • aerosol-cloud interactions
  • Arctic
  • cloud microphysics
  • first indirect effect
  • Twomey effect


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