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Direct and semidirect aerosol effects of southern African biomass burning...

Sakaeda, N., R. Wood, and P. J. Rasch (2011), Direct and semidirect aerosol effects of southern African biomass burning aerosol, J. Geophys. Res., 116, D12205, doi:10.1029/2010JD015540.

Direct and semidirect radiative effects of biomass burning aerosols from southern African fires during July–October are investigated using 20 year runs of the Community Atmospheric Model (CAM) coupled to a slab ocean model. Aerosol optical depth is constrained using observations in clear skies from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and for aerosol layers above clouds from Cloud Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO). Over the ocean, where the aerosol layers are primarily located above cloud, negative top of atmosphere (TOA) semidirect radiative effects associated with increased low cloud cover dominate over a weaker positive all‐sky direct radiative effect (DRE). In contrast, over the land where the aerosols are often below or within cloud layers, reductions in cloud liquid water path (LWP) lead to a positive semidirect radiative effect that dominates over a near‐zero DRE. Over the ocean, the cloud response can be understood as a response to increased lower tropospheric stability (LTS) which is caused both by radiative heating in overlying layers and surface cooling in response to direct aerosol forcing. The marine cloud changes are robust to changes in the cloud parameterization (removal of the hard‐wired dependence of clouds on LTS), suggesting that they are physically realistic. Over land, decreased LWP is consistent with weaker convection driven by increased static stability. Over the entire region the overall TOA radiative effect from the biomass burning aerosols is almost zero due to opposing effects over the land and ocean. However, the surface forcing is strongly negative, which leads to a reduction in precipitation and also a reduction in sensible heat flux. The former is primarily realized through reductions in convective precipitation on both the southern and northern flanks of the convective precipitation region spanning the equatorial rain forest and the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) in the southern Sahel. The changes are consistent with the low‐level aerosol‐forced cooling pattern. The results highlight the importance of semidirect radiative effects and precipitation responses for determining the climatic effects of aerosols in the African region.

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