Aerosol microphysical and radiative effects on continental cloud ensembles

Yuan Wang, Jonathan M. Vogel, Yun Lin, Bowen Pan, Jiaxi Hu, Yangang Liu, Xiquan Dong, Jonathan H. Jiang, Yuk L. Yung, Renyi Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Aerosol–cloud–radiation interactions represent one of the largest uncertainties in the current climate assessment. Much of the complexity arises from the non-monotonic responses of clouds, precipitation and radiative fluxes to aerosol perturbations under various meteorological conditions. In this study, an aerosol-aware WRF model is used to investigate the microphysical and radiative effects of aerosols in three weather systems during the March 2000 Cloud Intensive Observational Period campaign at the US Southern Great Plains. Three simulated cloud ensembles include a low-pressure deep convective cloud system, a collection of less-precipitating stratus and shallow cumulus, and a cold frontal passage. The WRF simulations are evaluated by several ground-based measurements. The microphysical properties of cloud hydrometeors, such as their mass and number concentrations, generally show monotonic trends as a function of cloud condensation nuclei concentrations. Aerosol radiative effects do not influence the trends of cloud microphysics, except for the stratus and shallow cumulus cases where aerosol semi-direct effects are identified. The precipitation changes by aerosols vary with the cloud types and their evolving stages, with a prominent aerosol invigoration effect and associated enhanced precipitation from the convective sources. The simulated aerosol direct effect suppresses precipitation in all three cases but does not overturn the aerosol indirect effect. Cloud fraction exhibits much smaller sensitivity (typically less than 2%) to aerosol perturbations, and the responses vary with aerosol concentrations and cloud regimes. The surface shortwave radiation shows a monotonic decrease by increasing aerosols, while the magnitude of the decrease depends on the cloud type.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)234-247
Number of pages14
JournalAdvances in Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • aerosol-cloud-radiation interactions
  • cloud microphysics and macrophysics
  • cloud-resolving model
  • precipitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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