Aerosol influences on low-level clouds in the West African monsoon

Abstract : Low-level clouds (LLC) cover a wide area of southern West Africa (SWA) during the summer monsoon months, and have an important cooling effect on the regional climate. Previous studies of these clouds have focused on modelling and remote sensing via satellite. We present the first comprehensive set of regional, in situ measurements of cloud microphysics, taken during June – July 2016, as part of the DACCIWA (Dynamics-Aerosol-Chemistry-Clouds Interactions in West Africa) campaign, assessing spatial and temporal variation in the properties of these clouds. LLC developed overnight and mean cloud cover peaked a few hundred kilometres inland around 10:00 local solar time (LST), before clouds began to dissipate and convection intensified in the afternoon. Additional sea breeze clouds developed near the coast in the late morning, reaching a maximum extent around 12:00LST. Regional variation in LLC cover was largely determined by the modulation of the cool maritime inflow by the local orography, with peaks on the upwind side of hills and minima on the leeward sides. In the broad-scale cloud field, no lasting impacts related to anthropogenic aerosol were observed downwind of major population centres. The boundary layer cloud drop number concentration (CDNC) was locally variable inland, ranging from 200 to 840cm−3 (10th and 90th percentiles at standard temperature and pressure), but showed no systematic regional variations. Enhancements were seen in pollution plumes from the coastal cities, but were not statistically significant across the region. The majority of accumulation mode aerosols, and therefore cloud condensation nuclei, were from ubiquitous biomass burning smoke transported from the southern hemisphere. Consequently, all clouds measured (inland and offshore) had significantly higher CDNC and lower effective radius than clouds over the remote south Atlantic from literature. A parcel model sensitivity analysis showed that doubling or halving local emissions only changed the calculated CDNC by 13–22%, as the high background meant local emissions were a small fraction of total aerosol. As the population of SWA grows, local emissions are expected to rise. Biomass burning smoke transported from the southern hemisphere is likely to dampen any effect of these increased local emissions on cloud-aerosol interactions. An integrative analysis between local pollution and Central African biomass burning emissions must be considered when predicting anthropogenic impacts on the regional cloud field during the West African monsoon.
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Jonathan W. Taylor, Sophie L. Haslett, Keith Bower, Michael Flynn, Ian Crawford, et al.. Aerosol influences on low-level clouds in the West African monsoon. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, European Geosciences Union, 2019, 19 (13), pp.8503-8522. ⟨10.5194/acp-19-8503-2019⟩. ⟨insu-01988483⟩

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