Skip to Main content Skip to Navigation
Journal articles

Satellite inference of water vapour and above-cloud aerosol combined effect on radiative budget and cloud-top processes in the southeastern Atlantic Ocean

Abstract : Aerosols have a direct effect on the Earth's radiative budget and can also affect cloud development and lifetime, and the aerosols above clouds (AAC) are particularly associated with high uncertainties in global climate models. Therefore, it is a prerequisite to improve the description and understanding of these situations. During the austral winter, large loadings of biomass burning aerosols originating from fires in the southern African subcontinent are lifted and transported westwards, across the southeastern Atlantic Ocean. The negligible wet scavenging of these absorbing aerosols leads to a near-persistent smoke layer above one of the largest stratocumulus cloud decks on the planet. Therefore, the southeastern Atlantic region is a very important area for studying the impact of above-cloud absorbing aerosols, their radiative forcing and their possible effects on clouds.

In this study we aim to analyse and quantify the effect of smoke loadings on cloud properties using a synergy of different remote sensing techniques from A-Train retrievals (methods based on the passive instruments POLDER and MODIS and the operational method of the spaceborne lidar CALIOP), collocated with ERA-Interim re-analysis meteorological profiles. To analyse the possible mechanisms of AAC effects on cloud properties, we developed a high and low aerosol loading approach, which consists in evaluating the change in radiative quantities (i.e. cloud-top cooling, heating rate vertical profiles) and cloud properties with the smoke loading. During this analysis, we account for the variation in the meteorological conditions over our sample area by selecting the months associated with one meteorological regime (June-August).

The results show that the region we focus on is primarily under the energetic influence of absorbing aerosols, leading to a significant positive shortwave direct effect at the top of the atmosphere. For larger loads of AACs, clouds are optically thicker, with an increase in liquid water path of 20 g m-2 and lower cloud-top altitudes by 100 m. These results do not contradict the semi-direct effect of above-cloud aerosols, explored in previous studies. Furthermore, we observe a strong covariance between the aerosol and the water vapour loadings, which has to be accounted for. A detailed analysis of the heating rate profiles shows that within the smoke layer, the absorbing aerosols are 90 % responsible for warming the ambient air by approximately 5.7 K d-1. The accompanying water vapour, however, has a longwave effect at distance on the cloud top, reducing its cooling by approximately 4.7 K d-1 (equivalent to 7 %). We infer that this decreased cloud-top cooling in particular, in addition with the higher humidity above the clouds, might modify the cloud-top entrainment rate and its effect, leading to thicker clouds. Therefore, smoke (the combination of aerosol and water vapour) events would have the potential to modify and probably reinforce the underlaying cloud cover.

Document type :
Journal articles
Complete list of metadata
Contributor : Nathalie POTHIER Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Friday, June 3, 2022 - 7:40:30 AM
Last modification on : Saturday, June 4, 2022 - 3:36:38 AM


Publisher files allowed on an open archive


Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License




Lucia T. Deaconu, Nicolas Ferlay, Fabien Waquet, Fanny Peers, François Thieuleux, et al.. Satellite inference of water vapour and above-cloud aerosol combined effect on radiative budget and cloud-top processes in the southeastern Atlantic Ocean. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, European Geosciences Union, 2019, 19, pp.11613-11634. ⟨10.5194/acp-19-11613-2019⟩. ⟨insu-03686273⟩



Record views


Files downloads