Potential impact of aerosols on convective clouds revealed by Himawari-8...

Chen, T., Z. Li, R. Kahn, C. Zhao, D. Rosenfeld, J. Guo, W. Han, and D. Chen (2021), Potential impact of aerosols on convective clouds revealed by Himawari-8 observations over different terrain types in eastern China, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 21, 6199-6220, doi:10.5194/acp-21-6199-2021.

Convective clouds are common and play a major role in Earth’s water cycle and energy balance; they may even develop into storms and cause severe rainfall events. To understand the convective cloud development process, this study investigates the impact of aerosols on convective clouds by considering the influence of both topography and diurnal variation in radiation. By combining texture analysis, clustering, and thresholding methods, we identify all convective clouds in two warm seasons (May–September, 2016/17) in eastern China based on Himawari-8 Level 1 data. Having large diurnally resolved cloud data together with surface meteorological and environmental measurements, we investigate convective cloud properties and their variation, stratified by elevation and diurnal change. We then analyze the potential impact of aerosol on convective clouds under different meteorological conditions and topographies. In general, convective clouds tend to occur preferentially under polluted conditions in the morning, which reverses in the afternoon. Convective cloud fraction first increases then decreases with aerosol loading, which may contribute to this phenomenon. Topography and diurnal meteorological variations may affect the strength of aerosol microphysical and radiative effects. Updraft is always stronger along the windward slopes of mountains and plateaus, especially in northern China. The prevailing southerly wind near the foothills of mountains and plateaus is likely to contribute to this windward strengthening of updraft and to bring more pollutant into the mountains, thereby strengthening the microphysical effect, invigorating convective clouds. By comparison, over plain, aerosols decrease surface heating and suppress convection by blocking solar radiation reaching the surface.

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Research Program: 
Atmospheric Composition Modeling and Analysis Program (ACMAP)
Funding Sources: 
ACMAP, Terra Project