Contrasting climate responses to the scattering and absorbing features of anthropogenic aerosol forcings

Ilissa B. Ocko, V. Ramaswamy, Yi Ming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Anthropogenic aerosols comprise optically scattering and absorbing particles, with the principal concentrations being in the Northern Hemisphere, yielding negative and positive global mean radiative forcings, respectively. Aerosols also influence cloud albedo, yielding additional negative radiative forcings. Climate responses to a comprehensive set of isolated aerosol forcing simulations are investigated in a coupled atmosphere- ocean framework, forced by preindustrial to present-day aerosol-induced radiative perturbations. Atmospheric and oceanic climate responses (including precipitation, atmospheric circulation, atmospheric and oceanic heat transport, sea surface temperature, and salinity) to negative and positive particulate forcings are consistently anticorrelated. The striking effects include distinct patterns of changes north and south of the equator that are governed by the sign of the aerosol forcing and its initiation of an interhemispheric forcing asymmetry. The presence of opposing signs of the forcings between the aerosol scatterers and absorbers, and the resulting contrast in climate responses, thus dilutes the individual effects of aerosol types on influencing global and regional climate conditions. The aerosol-induced changes in the variables also have a distinct fingerprint when compared to the responses of the more globally uniform and interhemispherically symmetric well-mixed greenhouse gas forcing. The significance of employing a full ocean model is demonstrated in this study by the ability to partition how individual aerosols influence atmospheric and oceanic conditions separately.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5329-5345
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


  • Aerosols
  • Atmospheric circulation
  • Climate change
  • Climate models
  • Energy transport
  • Precipitation


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