Aerosol direct, indirect, semidirect, and surface albedo effects from sector contributions based on the IPCC AR5 emissions for preindustrial and present-day conditions

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Abstract

[1] The anthropogenic increase in aerosol concentrations since preindustrial times and its net cooling effect on the atmosphere is thought to mask some of the greenhouse gas-induced warming. Although the overall effect of aerosols on solar radiation and clouds is most certainly negative, some individual forcing agents and feedbacks have positive forcing effects. Recent studies have tried to identify some of those positive forcing agents and their individual emission sectors, with the hope that mitigation policies could be developed to target those emitters. Understanding the net effect of multisource emitting sectors and the involved cloud feedbacks is very challenging, and this paper will clarify forcing and feedback effects by separating direct, indirect, semidirect and surface albedo effects due to aerosols. To this end, we apply the Goddard Institute for Space Studies climate model including detailed aerosol microphysics to examine aerosol impacts on climate by isolating single emission sector contributions as given by the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) emission data sets developed for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) AR5. For the modeled past 150 years, using the climate model and emissions from preindustrial times to present-day, the total global annual mean aerosol radiative forcing is −0.6 W/m2, with the largest contribution from the direct effect (−0.5 W/m2). Aerosol-induced changes on cloud cover often depends on cloud type and geographical region. The indirect (includes only the cloud albedo effect with −0.17 W/m2) and semidirect effects (−0.10 W/m2) can be isolated on a regional scale, and they often have opposing forcing effects, leading to overall small forcing effects on a global scale. Although the surface albedo effects from aerosols are small (0.016 W/m2), triggered feedbacks on top of the atmosphere (TOA) radiative forcing can be 10 times larger. Our results point out that each emission sector has varying impacts by geographical region. For example, the single sector most responsible for a net positive radiative forcing is the transportation sector in the United States, agricultural burning and transportation in Europe, and the domestic emission sector in Asia. These sectors are attractive mitigation targets.

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