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Research Highlights / Atmospheric Physics Chemistry and Climate

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May 4, 2012

Tropical Tropospheric-Only Responses to Absorbing Aerosols
An ongoing challenge in quantifying aerosols’ impact on the climate is determining an optimal way of calculating aerosols’ radiative forcing. For absorbing aerosols, in particular, studies have shown that a forcing calculation that does not include the tropospheric response to absorbing aerosol (instantaneous forcing) is a poor proxy for the change in global mean surface temperature caused by the aerosol.

April 27, 2012

Comparing Global Atmospheric Model Simulations of Tropical Convection
An intercomparison of global atmospheric model simulations of tropical convection has been presented and evaluated with available observations collected during the TWP-ICE field experiment. Short simulations initialized from the ECMWF analysis have been used to constrain model large-scale states and thus isolate model systematic biases originating from various physical parameterizations. With realistic thermodynamic and kinematic fields captured in various weather regimes (wet, dry, and break), model precipitation, cloud properties (LWC, IWC, cloud fraction), radiation, and vertical heating profiles respond accordingly in these regimes. Despite somewhat realistically simulated precipitation, there are substantial cloud property discrepancies among the models, which are mainly influenced by cloud and convective parameterizations.

February 24, 2012

Transport of Asian ozone pollution into surface air over the western United States in spring
As Asian countries develop, they are emitting more ozone precursors that pollute surface level air. Many studies have documented this pollution being carried by air currents to the western United States. To determine the extent to which this pollution is affecting air quality in the western U.S., We analyzed balloon soundings, aircraft, surface and satellite measurements from May through June 2010 using a new global high-resolution chemistry-climate model. Our findings indicate that Asian pollution contributes as much as 20 percent of total ozone during springtime pollution episodes in western U.S. surface air.

September 29, 2011

Anthropogenic Aerosols and the Weakening of the South Asian Summer Monsoon
An important part of the global water cycle, the South Asian summer monsoon provides about 80% of the region’s annual precipitation, and touches the lives of more than 20% of the world’s population. Using the NOAA/GFDL state-of-the-art global climate model that accounts for all the known natural and anthropogenic forcings, we have investigated what caused the observed decrease in the South Asian summer monsoon rainfall over the second half of the 20th century. Was the widespread drying due to natural factors or human activities?

September 12, 2011

Climatological characteristics of Arctic and Antarctic surface-based inversions
Surface-based inversions (SBI) are frequent features of the Arctic and Antarctic atmospheric boundary layer and influence important climate processes. However, prior to this study, climatological polar SBI properties had not been fully characterized, nor had climate model simulations of SBIs been compared comprehensively to observations.

July 1, 2011

Sensitivity of the aerosol indirect effect to subgrid variability in the cloud parameterization of the GFDL Atmosphere General Circulation Model AM3
The recently developed GFDL AM3 model (Donner et. al 2011) incorporates a prognostic treatment of cloud drop number to simulate the aerosol indirect effect. The present work explores formulation sensitivities by constructing three alternate model configurations (S1, S2, S3). These alternate configurations exhibit only small differences in their present day climatology.

The GFDL CM3 model
Earlier generations of climate models at GFDL have specified cloud properties to be independent of atmospheric aerosol composition, despite fairly well-understood (at least for liquid clouds) dependence of cloud droplet number on aerosol composition and size distribution. Cloud drop number in turn exerts a major control on cloud radiation, notably albedo, and microphysics and macrophysics, notably cloud structure and lifetimes. Aerosol-cloud interactions are likely to be important in anthropogenic climate change. They have been difficult to incorporate in climate models because they occur at scales much smaller than resolved by climate models. CM3 parameterizes these smaller scales using probability distribution functions for motions smaller than those it explicitly resolves.

April 22, 2011

Downward shortwave surface flux in the GFDL CM2.1 General Circulation Model
The downward solar flux at the surface is an important component of the earth's climate system, being a major factor governing the surface temperature and hydrologic cycle. The availability of derived flux climatologies from both ground-based measurements and satellite-based estimates provide a reference for properly assessing general circulation model biases, not only in the surface irradiance, but in the atmospheric factors (aerosols, clouds, and water vapor) affecting it.

February 22, 2011

North American isoprene influence on intercontinental ozone pollution
Changing land-use and climate may increase biogenic isoprene emissions, which could offset the benefits from North American air pollution controls for both domestic and European air quality (surface ozone). Both anthropogenic and biogenic emission changes are reflected in peroxy acetyl nitrate (PAN), which may serve as a more effective indicator of intercontinental emission changes than ozone itself.

February 1, 2011

The meteorological nature of variable soluble iron transport and deposition within the North Atlantic Ocean basin.
Biological productivity in vast regions of the oceans is known to be limited by the supply of iron, an essential nutrient to marine organisms, impacting carbon export to the ocean floor. The atmospheric source of iron originates from desert mineral dust aerosols and is converted to a bio-available form of soluble iron during transport. Little is known of the magnitude and variability of soluble iron deposition (SFeD) and the character of its transport. We have used the GFDL Global Chemical Transport Model to examine the emission of mineral dust (~3.5% Fe) during Saharan desert dust storms; the chemical processing of iron to a soluble form during transport; and the subsequent dry surface deposition and precipitation scavenging deposition to the North Atlantic Ocean.

October 1, 2010

Sensitivity of the NOy budget over the United States to anthropogenic and lightning NOx in summer.
The study by Fang et al. [2010] examines the implications of new estimates of the anthropogenic and lightning nitrogen oxide (NOx) sources for the budget of oxidized nitrogen (NOy) over the United States in summer using a 3-D global chemical transport model (MOZART-4). NOy export and burden response less than linearly to either NOx emission changes due to the NOy partitioning change and the corresponding lifetime change. Lightning NOx contributes 24%−43% of the free tropospheric (FT) NOy export from the U.S. to the North Atlantic and 28%−34% to the NOy wet deposition over the United States.

Sensitivity of polar ozone to sea surface temperatures and halogen amounts.
The results of the simulations of Austin and Wilson (2010) suggest the importance of including a coupled ocean on stratospheric processes as well as realistic bromine amounts, including the very short lived species. The figure shows the calculated area of the ozone hole (colored lines and triangles), together with observations (black triangles). With SSTs from the CM2 coupled ocean-atmosphere experiment, the simulated ozone hole (blue) tends to be slightly larger (by about 6%) than simulated with observed SSTs used as forcing (red curve and points). For the low Bromine simulation (green), which corresponds approximately to just the long lived bromine species, the ozone hole was smaller by about 10%.

Multi-variate probability density functions with dynamics for cloud droplet activation in large-scale models
Multi-variate probability density functions with dynamics (MVD PDFs) have been incorporated into the single-column version of GFDL AM3 and extended to treat aerosol activation. MVD PDFs are unique in that they predict the joint distribution of temperature, water mass, and vertical velocity. The distribution of vertical velocity is then a natural link to aerosol activation. This paper presents the first results on the effects of aerosols and precipitation on cloud fraction and cloud liquid using the MVD PDFs and the first results on cloud droplet number concentrations obtained from the distributions of vertical velocity predicted by the MVD PDFs.

July 2, 2010

Two opposing effects of absorbing aerosols on global-mean precipitation
As they heat up both the atmosphere and the surface, absorbing aerosols affect precipitation in opposite ways. When simulating with a coupled general circulation-ocean model the overall hydrological response to increased black carbon levels, the researchers found that the net effect on global-mean precipitation is slightly negative.The effect is too small to outweigh the 2-3 % increase in global precipitation per each degree of greenhouse warming. But absorbing aerosols could have a more pronounced impact on moist convection and general circulation than carbon dioxide and non-absorbing aerosols, such as sulfate, which merely scatter solar radiation, the authors suggest.

June 17, 2010

Observational constraints on the global atmospheric budget of ethanol
Vaishali Naik, Arlene Fiore, Larry Horowitz from GFDL along with co-authors from NASA-AMES, NCAR, NOAA ESRL, University of Minnesota and University of California at Berkeley applied the global chemical-transport model MOZART-4 in conjunction with available observations from several regions around the globe to place constraints on the global budget of atmospheric ethanol. Their analysis indicates that over continental regions, ethanol concentrations predominantly reflect direct anthropogenic and biogenic emission sources. Furthermore, the authors find that current levels of ethanol measured in remote regions are an order of magnitude larger than those in the model, suggesting a major gap in the understanding of the sources and sinks of ethanol. Stronger constraints on the present-day budget and distribution of ethanol and other volatile organic compounds are needed to assess the impacts of increasing the use of ethanol as a fuel