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Efficacy of black carbon aerosols: the role of shortwave cloud feedback

Modak, Angshuman and Bala, Govindasamy (2019) Efficacy of black carbon aerosols: the role of shortwave cloud feedback. In: ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH LETTERS, 14 (8).

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Official URL: https://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab21e7


Using idealized climate model simulations, we investigate the effectiveness of black carbon (BC) aerosols in warming the planet relative to CO2 forcing. We find that a 60-fold increase in the BC aerosol mixing ratio from the present-day levels leads to the same equilibrium global mean surface warming (similar to 4.1 K) as for a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration. However, the radiative forcing is larger (similar to 5.5 Wm(-2)) in the BC case relative to the doubled CO2 case (similar to 3.8 Wm(-2)) for the same surface warming indicating the efficacy (a metric for measuring the effectiveness) of BC aerosols to be less than CO2. The lower efficacy of BC aerosols is related to the differences in the shortwave (SW) cloud feedback: negative in the BC case but positive in the CO2 case. In the BC case, the negative SW cloud feedback is related to an increase in the tropical low clouds which is associated with a northward shift (similar to 7 degrees) of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). Further, we show that in the BC case fast precipitation suppression offsets the surface temperature mediated precipitation response and causes similar to 8% net decline in the global mean precipitation. Our study suggests that a feedback between the location of ITCZ and the interhemispheric temperature could exist, and the consequent SW cloud feedback could be contributing to the lower efficacy of BC aerosols. Therefore, an improved representation of low clouds in climate models is likely the key to understand the global climate sensitivity to BC aerosols.

Item Type: Journal Article
Additional Information: copyright for this article belongs to IOP PUBLISHING LTD
Keywords: black carbon aerosols; climate feedback; climate sensitivity; efficacy of forcings; ITCZ shift; cloud feedback; hydrological cycle
Department/Centre: Division of Mechanical Sciences > Centre for Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences
Depositing User: Id for Latest eprints
Date Deposited: 11 Sep 2019 09:07
Last Modified: 11 Sep 2019 09:07
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/63453

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