Absorbing aerosols over Asia: A Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory general circulation model sensitivity study of model response to aerosol optical depth and aerosol absorption



[1] Forcing by absorbing atmospheric black carbon (BC) tends to heat the atmosphere, cool the surface, and reduce the surface latent and sensible heat fluxes. BC aerosol can have a large impact on regional climates and the hydrologic cycle. However, significant uncertainties remain concerning the increases in (1) the total amount of all aerosol species and (2) the amount of aerosol absorption that may have occurred over the 1950–1990 period. Focusing on south and east Asia, the sensitivity of a general circulation model's climate response (with prescribed sea surface temperatures and aerosol distributions) to such changes is investigated by considering a range of both aerosol absorption and aerosol extinction optical depth increases. We include direct and semidirect aerosol effects only. Precipitation changes are less sensitive to changes in aerosol absorption optical depth at lower aerosol loadings. At higher-extinction optical depths, low-level convergence and increases in vertical velocity overcome the stabilizing effects of absorbing aerosols and enhance the monsoonal circulation and precipitation in northwestern India. In contrast, the presence of increases in only scattering aerosols weakens the monsoonal circulation and inhibits precipitation here. Cloud amount changes can enhance or counteract surface solar flux reduction depending on the aerosol loading and absorption, with the changes also influencing the surface temperature and the surface energy balance. The results have implications for aerosol reduction strategies in the future that seek to mitigate air pollution concerns. At higher optical depths, if absorbing aerosol is present, reduction of scattering aerosol alone has a reduced effect on precipitation changes, implying that reductions in BC aerosols should be undertaken at the same time as reductions in sulfate aerosols.