Sensitivity of the atmospheric lapse rate to solar cloud absorption in a radiative-convective model

Carynelisa Erlick*, V. Ramaswamy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Previous radiative-convective model studies of the radiative forcing due to absorbing aerosols such as soot and dust have revealed a strong dependence on the vertical distribution of the absorbers. In this study, we extend this concept to absorption in cloud layers, using a one-dimensional radiative-convective model employing high, middle, and low cloud representations to investigate the response of the surface temperature and atmospheric lapse rate to increases in visible cloud absorption. The visible single-scattering albedo (ssa) of the clouds is prescribed, ranging from 1.0 to 0.6, where 0.99 is the minimum that would be expected from the presence of absorbing aerosols within the cloud drops on the basis of recent Monterey Area Ship Track (MAST) Experiment case studies. Simulations are performed with respect to both a constant cloud optical depth and an increasing cloud optical depth and as a function of cloud height. We find that increases in solar cloud absorption tend to warm the troposphere and surface and stabilize the atmosphere, while increases in cloud optical depth cool the troposphere and surface and slightly stabilize the atmosphere between the low cloud top and surface because of the increase in surface cooling. In the absence of considerations involving microphysical or cloud-climate feedbacks, we find that two conditions are required to yield an inversion from a solar cloud absorption perturbation: (1) The solar absorption perturbation must be included throughout the tropospheric clouds column, distributing the solar heating to higher altitudes, and (2) the ssa of the clouds must be ≤0.6, which is an unrealistically low value. The implication is that there is very little possibility of significant stabilization of the global mean atmosphere due to perturbation of cloud properties given current ssa values.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)AAC 6-1 - AAC 6-7
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
Volume108
Issue number16
DOIs
StatePublished - 27 Aug 2003

Keywords

  • Indirect aerosol effect
  • Radiative-convective model
  • Solar cloud forcing

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