A potential large and persistent black carbon forcing over Northern Pacific inferred from satellite observations

Zhongshu Li, Junfeng Liu, Denise Leonore Mauzerall, Xiaoyuan Li, Songmiao Fan, Larry W. Horowitz, Cenlin He, Kan Yi, Shu Tao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Black carbon (BC) aerosol strongly absorbs solar radiation, which warms climate. However, accurate estimation of BC's climate effect is limited by the uncertainties of its spatiotemporal distribution, especially over remote oceanic areas. The HIAPER Pole-to-Pole Observation (HIPPO) program from 2009 to 2011 intercepted multiple snapshots of BC profiles over Pacific in various seasons, and revealed a 2 to 5 times overestimate of BC by current global models. In this study, we compared the measurements from aircraft campaigns and satellites, and found a robust association between BC concentrations and satellite-retrieved CO, tropospheric NO2, and aerosol optical depth (AOD) (R2 > 0.8). This establishes a basis to construct a satellite-based column BC approximation (sBC∗) over remote oceans. The inferred sBC∗ shows that Asian outflows in spring bring much more BC aerosols to the mid-Pacific than those occurring in other seasons. In addition, inter-annual variability of sBC∗ is seen over the Northern Pacific, with abundances varying consistently with the springtime Pacific/North American (PNA) index. Our sBC∗ dataset infers a widespread overestimation of BC loadings and BC Direct Radiative Forcing by current models over North Pacific, which further suggests that large uncertainties exist on aerosol-climate interactions over other remote oceanic areas beyond Pacific.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number43429
JournalScientific reports
StatePublished - Mar 7 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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