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Title: Investigating aerosol-cloud interactions
Author: Grandey, Benjamin Stephen
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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Microphysical and dynamical interactions between aerosols and clouds are associated with some of the largest uncertainties in projections of future climate. Many possible aerosol effects on clouds have been suggested, but large uncertainties remain. In order to improve model projections of future climate, it is essential that we improve our quantitative understanding of anthropogenic aerosol effects. Several studies investigating interactions between satellite-observed aerosol and cloud properties have been published in recent years. However, the observed relationships are not necessarily due to aerosol effects on clouds. They may be due to cloud and precipitation effects on aerosol, meteorological covariation, observational data errors or methodological errors. An analysis of methodological errors arising through climatological spatial gradients is performed. For region sizes larger than 4°×4°, commonly used in the literature, spurious spatial variations in retrieved cloud and aerosol properties are found to introduce widespread significant errors to calculations of aerosol-cloud relationships. Small scale analysis prior to error-weighted aggregation to larger region sizes is recommended. Appropriate ways of quantifying relationships between aerosol optical depth (τ) and cloud properties are considered, and results are presented for three satellite datasets. There is much disagreement in observed relationships between τ and liquid cloud droplet number concentration and between τ and liquid cloud droplet effective radius, particularly over land. However, all three satellite datasets are in agreement about strong positive relationships between τ and cloud top height and between τ and cloud fraction (f_c). Using reanalysis τ data, which are less affected by retrieval artifacts, it is suggested that a large part of the observed f_c-τ signal may be due to cloud contamination of τ. General circulation model simulations further demonstrate that positive f_c-τ relationships may primarily arise due to covariation with relative humidity, and that negative f_c-τ relationships may arise due to scavenging of aerosol by precipitation. A new method of investigating the contribution of meteorological covariation to the observed relationships is introduced. Extratropical cyclone storm-centric composites of retrieved aerosol and cloud properties are investigated. A storm-centric description of the synoptics is found to be capable of explaining spurious f_c-τ relationships, although the spurious relationships explained are considerably smaller than observed relationships.
Supervisor: Stier, Philip Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Atmospheric,Oceanic,and Planetary physics ; Physics ; Physical Sciences ; aerosols ; clouds ; climate ; atmospheric ; physics