Global sensitivity studies of the direct radiative forcing due to anthropogenic sulfate and black carbon aerosols

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Abstract

The direct radiative forcing (DRF) of sulfate and black carbon (BC) aerosols is investigated using a new multispectral radiation code within the R30 Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory general circulation model (GCM). Two independent sulfate climatologies from chemical transport models are applied to the GCM; each climatology has a different atmospheric burden, vertical profile, and seasonal cycle. The DRF is calculated to be approximately -0.6 and -0.8 W m-2 for the different sulfate climatologies. Additional sensitivity studies show that the vertical profile of the sulfate aerosol is important in determining the DRF; sulfate residing near the surface gives the strongest DRF due to the effects of relative humidity. Calculations of the DRF due to BC reveal that the DRF remains uncertain to approximately a factor of 3 due to uncertainties in the total atmospheric burden, the vertical profile of the BC, and the assumed size distribution. Because of the uncertainties in the total global mass of BC, the normalized DRF (the DRF per unit column mass of aerosol in watts per milligram (W mg-1)) due to BC is estimated; the range is + 1.1 to + 1.9 W mg-1 due to uncertainties in the vertical profile. These values correspond to a DRF of approximately +0.4 W m-2 with a factor of 3 uncertainty when the uncertainty in the total global mass of BC is included. In contrast to sulfate aerosol, the contribution to the global DRF from cloudy regions is very significant, being estimated as approximately 60%. The vertical profile of the BC is, once again, important in determining the DRF, but the sensitivity is reversed from that of sulfate; BC near the surface gives the weakest DRF due to the shielding effects of overlying clouds. Although the uncertainty in the estimates of the DRF due to BC remains high, these results indicate that the DRF due to absorption by BC aerosol may contribute a significant positive radiative forcing and may consequently be important in determining climatic changes in the Earth-atmosphere system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6043-6058
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Volume103
Issue numberD6
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 27 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology

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