Effect of biomass burning on marine stratocumulus clouds off the California coast 1Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA
2Chemical Sciences Division, Earth System Research Lab., NOAA, Boulder, Colorado, USA
3Center for Weather Forecasting and Climate Studies, INPE, Cachoeira Paulista, Brazil
4National Geophysical Data Center, NESDIS, NOAA, USA
5Science Systems and Applications Incorporated, Hampton Virginia, USA
6UW-Madison SSEC/CIMSS – Consultant, Grass Valley, CA, USA
7NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia, USA
Received: 29 May 2009 – Published in Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss.: 03 July 2009 Abstract. Aerosol-cloud interactions are considered to be one of the most important and
least known forcings in the climate system. Biomass burning aerosols are of
special interest due to their radiative impact (direct and indirect effect)
and their potential to increase in the future due to climate change.
Combining data from Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)
and MODerate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) with passive tracers
from the FLEXPART Lagrangian Particle Dispersion Model, the impact of biomass
burning aerosols on marine stratocumulus clouds has been examined in June and
July of 2006–2008 off the California coast.
Using a continental tracer, the indirect effect of biomass burning aerosols
has been isolated by comparing the average cloud fraction and cloud albedo
for different meteorological situations, and for clean versus polluted (in
terms of biomass burning) continental air masses at 14:00 local time.
Within a 500 km-wide band along the coast of California, biomass burning
aerosols, which tend to reside above the marine boundary layer, increased
the cloud fraction by 0.143, and the cloud albedo by 0.038.
Absorbing aerosols located above the marine boundary layer lead to an
increase of the lower tropospheric stability and a reduction in the vertical
entrainment of dry air from above, leading to increased cloud formation.
The combined effect was an indirect radiative forcing of −7.5% ±1.7%
(cooling effect) of the outgoing radiative flux at the top of the atmosphere
on average, with a bias due to meteorology of +0.9%.
Further away from the coast, the biomass burning aerosols, which were located
within the boundary layer, reduced the cloud fraction by 0.023 and the cloud
albedo by 0.006, resulting in an indirect radiative forcing of +1.3%
±0.3% (warming effect) with a bias of +0.5%.
These results underscore the dual role that absorbing aerosols
play in cloud radiative forcing.
Revised: 27 September 2009 – Accepted: 12 November 2009 – Published: 23 November 2009
Citation: Brioude, J., Cooper, O. R., Feingold, G., Trainer, M., Freitas, S. R., Kowal, D., Ayers, J.K., Prins, E., Minnis, P., McKeen, S. A., Frost, G. J., and Hsie, E.-Y.: Effect of biomass burning on marine stratocumulus clouds off the California coast, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 9, 8841-8856, doi:10.5194/acp-9-8841-2009, 2009.