Evaluation of the aerosol indirect effect using satellite, tracer transport model, and aircraft data from the International Consortium for Atmospheric Research on Transport and Transformation



[1] The magnitudes of the “indirect effects” that anthropogenic aerosols have on clouds and climate remain uncertain. Past space-based characterizations have compared satellite retrievals of cloud properties with satellite- or model-derived aerosol quantities. The two fields have been taken from air masses displaced from each other either horizontally or vertically. Thus, almost by definition, the cloud retrievals have come from different meteorological regimes than the aerosol to which ostensibly they are related. Because cloud properties depend foremost on meteorology, the difference introduces undesired ambiguity in the comparisons. In this study, we compare Terra and Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) cloud retrievals with high spatial and temporal resolution output from a tracer transport model (FLEXPART), enabling colocation of fields of pollution and clouds both vertically and horizontally. Anthropogenic carbon monoxide (CO) is used as a passive pollution tracer, because its concentrations are tied to mixing and pollutant source strength, and they are independent of atmospheric oxidation and removal processes on timescales of weeks to months. Cloud and pollution fields are compared along a downwind axis from the U.S. northeastern seaboard for the duration of the summer 2004 International Consortium for Atmospheric Research on Transport and Transformation (ICARTT) mission. Where the transport model indicates air as being polluted, cloud re is smaller and cloud optical depth is in some cases higher, at least close to primary source regions. However, within 4 ± 1 days advection time from the northeastern seaboard, cloud perturbations become negligible, probably because of wet-scavenging of CCN. No conclusive evidence was found for any perturbation to cloud liquid water path by pollution.