The role of aerosol absorption in driving clear-sky solar dimming over East Asia

Geeta G. Persad, Yi Ming, V. Ramaswamy

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15 Scopus citations


Surface-based observations indicate a significant decreasing trend in clear-sky downward surface solar radiation (SSR) over East Asia since the 1960s. This “dimming” is thought to be driven by the region’s long-term increase in aerosol emissions, but little work has been done to quantify the underlying physical mechanisms or the contribution from aerosol absorption within the atmospheric column. Given the distinct climate impacts that absorption-driven dimming may produce, this constitutes an important, but thus far rather neglected, line of inquiry. We examine experiments conducted in the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory’s atmospheric general circulation models, AM2.1 and AM3, in order to analyze the model-simulated East Asian clear-sky SSR trends. We also use the models’ stand-alone radiation module to examine the contribution from various aerosol characteristics in the two models (such as burden, mixing state, hygroscopicity, and seasonal distribution) to the trends. Both models produce trends in clear-sky SSR that are comparable to that observed but via disparate mechanisms. Despite their different aerosol characteristics, the models produce nearly identical increases in aerosol absorption since the 1960s, constituting as much as half of the modeled clear-sky dimming. This is due to a compensation between the differences in aerosol column burden and mixing state assumed in the two models, i.e., plausible clear-sky SSR simulations can be achieved via drastically different aerosol parameterizations. Our novel results indicate that trends in aerosol absorption drive a large portion of East Asian clear-sky solar dimming in the models presented here and for the time periods analyzed and that mechanistic analysis of the factors involved in aerosol absorption is an important diagnostic in evaluating modeled clear-sky solar dimming trends.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10,410-10,424
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 16 2014
Externally publishedYes

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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