Aerosol and cloud property relationships for summertime stratiform clouds in the northeastern Atlantic from Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer observations



[1] Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) 4-km data collected over the northeastern Atlantic off the coast of the Iberian Peninsula for May to August 1995 were used to investigate the feasibility of empirically deriving estimates of the aerosol indirect radiative forcing. A retrieval scheme was used to derive cloud visible optical depth, droplet effective radius, cloud layer altitude, and pixel-scale fractional cloud cover. A two-channel aerosol retrieval scheme was used to determine aerosol optical depth in cloud-free pixels. Mean aerosol optical depths derived from the cloud-free pixels in 1° × 1° latitude-longitude regions on a given satellite overpass were associated with mean cloud properties derived from the cloudy pixels in the same region for the same satellite overpass. The analysis was restricted to 1° regions that contained only single-layered, low-level cloud systems. Because aerosol and cloud properties are highly variable, results for the 4-month period were composited into 5° × 5° latitude-longitude regions and averaged to obtain reliable trends in the cloud properties as functions of aerosol burden. Consistent with expectations for the aerosol indirect effect, in some 5° regions, droplet effective radii decreased, and cloud visible optical depths increased as aerosol optical depths increased. The hypothesis that drizzle is suppressed in polluted clouds predicts that liquid water path should increase as aerosol burden increases. In three of the thirteen 5° regions studied, the liquid water path increased as aerosol optical depth increased, but in none of the regions was the increase in cloud liquid water statistically significant. In the remaining regions, cloud liquid water remained constant or even decreased with increasing aerosol optical depth. In many of the 5° regions, the retrieved aerosol optical depth increased as the percentage of cloudy pixels increased. Consistent with expectations from adiabatic cloud parcel models, droplet effective radius, cloud optical depth, and cloud liquid water path also increased as fractional cloud cover increased. The simultaneous increase in retrieved aerosol and cloud optical depths with increasing fractional cloud cover might have been due to the aerosol indirect effect, but it might also have resulted from processes that affect both the cloud and aerosol properties as cloud cover changes. The dependence on fractional cloud cover suggests that some of the trends between aerosol optical depth and the cloud properties cannot be solely attributed to the effects of the aerosols. For comparison with previous studies, the simultaneous changes in aerosol and cloud properties were used to estimate the daily average aerosol indirect forcing for overcast conditions in the summertime northeastern Atlantic. The magnitude of the indirect forcing relative to that of the direct forcing reported here is smaller than estimates reported by others.