Estimates of the direct and indirect radiative forcing due to tropospheric aerosols: A review


  • James Haywood,

  • Olivier Boucher


This paper reviews the many developments in estimates of the direct and indirect global annual mean radiative forcing due to present-day concentrations of anthropogenic tropospheric aerosols since Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [1996]. The range of estimates of the global mean direct radiative forcing due to six distinct aerosol types is presented. Additionally, the indirect effect is split into two components corresponding to the radiative forcing due to modification of the radiative properties of clouds (cloud albedo effect) and the effects of anthropogenic aerosols upon the lifetime of clouds (cloud lifetime effect). The radiative forcing for anthropogenic sulphate aerosol ranges from −0.26 to −0.82 W m−2. For fossil fuel black carbon the radiative forcing ranges from +0.16 W m−2 for an external mixture to +0.42 W m−2 for where the black carbon is modeled as internally mixed with sulphate aerosol. For fossil fuel organic carbon the two estimates of the likely weakest limit of the direct radiative forcing are −0.02 and −0.04 W m−2. For biomass-burning sources of black carbon and organic carbon the combined radiative forcing ranges from −0.14 to −0.74 W m−2. Estimates of the radiative forcing due to mineral dust vary widely from +0.09 to −0.46 W m−2; even the sign of the radiative forcing is not well established due to the competing effects of solar and terrestrial radiative forcings. A single study provides a very tentative estimate of the radiative forcing of nitrates to be −0.03 W m−2. Estimates of the cloud albedo indirect radiative forcing range from −0.3 to approximately −1.8 W m−2. Although the cloud lifetime effect is identified as a potentially important climate forcing mechanism, it is difficult to quantify in the context of the present definition of radiative forcing of climate change and current model simulations. This is because its estimation by general circulation models necessarily includes some level of cloud and water vapor feedbacks, which affect the hydrological cycle and the dynamics of the atmosphere. Available models predict that the radiative flux perturbation associated with the cloud lifetime effect is of a magnitude similar to that of the cloud albedo effect.