East Asia has some of the largest concentrations of absorbing aerosols globally, and these, along with the region's scattering aerosols, have both reduced the amount of solar radiation reaching Earth's surface regionally (solar dimming) and increased shortwave absorption within the atmosphere, particularly during the peak months of the East Asian summer monsoon (EASM). This study analyzes how atmospheric absorption and surface solar dimming compete in driving the response of regional summertime climate to anthropogenic aerosols, which dominates, and why-issues of particular importance for predicting how East Asian climate will respond to projected changes in absorbing and scattering aerosol emissions in the future. These questions are probed in a state-of-the-art general circulation model using a combination of realistic and novel idealized aerosol perturbations that allow analysis of the relative influence of absorbing aerosols' atmospheric and surface-driven impacts on regional circulation and climate. Results show that even purely absorption-driven dimming decreases EASM precipitation by cooling the land surface, counteracting climatological land-sea contrast and reducing ascending atmospheric motion and onshore winds, despite the associated positive top-of-the-atmosphere regional radiative forcing. Absorption-driven atmospheric heating does partially offset the precipitation and surface evaporation reduction from surface dimming, but the overall response to aerosol absorption more closely resembles the response to its surface dimming than to its atmospheric heating. These findings provide a novel decomposition of absorbing aerosol's impacts on regional climate and demonstrate that the response cannot be expected to follow the sign of absorption's top-of-the-atmosphere or even atmospheric radiative perturbation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Atmospheric Science
- Atmosphere-land interaction
- Climate models