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Radiative effects of natural aerosols: A review

Satheesh, SK and Moorthy, Krishna K (2005) Radiative effects of natural aerosols: A review. In: Atmospheric Environment, 39 (11). pp. 2089-2110.

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In recent years, there has been a substantial increase in interest in the influence of anthropogenic aerosols on climate through both direct and indirect effects. Several extensive investigations and coordinated field campaigns have been carried out to assess the impact of anthropogenic aerosols on climate. However, there are far fewer studies on natural aerosols than on anthropogenic aerosols, despite their importance. Natural aerosols are particularly important because they provide a kind of base level to aerosol impact, and there is no effective control on them, unlike their anthropogenic counterparts. Besides, on a global scale the abundance of natural aerosols is several times greater than that of the major anthropogenic aerosols (sulphate, soot and organics). The major natural aerosol components are sea salt, soil dust, natural sulphates, volcanic aerosols, and those generated by natural forest fires. As with anthropogenic aerosols, the abundance of natural aerosols such as soil dust is also increasing, due to processes such as deforestation, which exposes more land areas which may then interact directly with the atmosphere, and due to other human activities. Since a major fraction of the natural aerosol (sea salt and natural sulphate) is of the non-absorbing type (and hygroscopic), it partly offsets the warming due to greenhouse gases as well as that due to absorbing aerosols (e.g., soot). The mineral dust transported over land and ocean causes surface cooling (due to scattering and absorption) simultaneously with lower atmospheric heating (due to absorption); this could in turn intensify a low-level inversion and increase atmospheric stability and reduce convection. To accurately predict the impact of dust aerosols on climate, the spatial and temporal distribution of dust is essential. The regional characteristics of dust source function are poorly understood due to the lack of an adequate database. The reduction of solar radiation at the surface would lead to a reduction in the sensible heat flux and all these will lead to perturbations in the regional and global climate. Enhanced concentration of sea salt aerosols at high wind speed would lead to more condensation nuclei, increase in the cloud droplet concentration and hence cloud albedo. Even though direct radiative impacts due to sea salt and natural sulphate are small compared to those due to anthropogenic counterparts, their indirect effects (and the uncertainties) are much larger. There is a considerable uncertainty in sea salt aerosol radiative forcing due to an inadequate database over oceans. The presence of natural aerosols may influence the radiative impact of anthropogenic aerosols, and it is difficult to separate the natural and anthropogenic aerosol contributions to radiative forcing when they are in a mixed state. Hence it is necessary to document the radiative effects of natural aerosols, especially in the tropics where the natural sources are strong. This is the subject matter of this review.

Item Type: Journal Article
Additional Information: Copyright of this article belongs to Elsevier.
Keywords: Aerosols;Climate change;Radiative forcing;Radiation budget
Department/Centre: Division of Mechanical Sciences > Centre for Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences
Depositing User: Ramya Krishna
Date Deposited: 01 May 2007
Last Modified: 19 Sep 2010 04:37
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/10795

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