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Thermal Infrared Radiative Forcing By Atmospheric Aerosol
AdvisorArnott, William Patrick
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The work mainly focuses on the study of thermal infrared (IR) properties of atmospheric greenhouse gases and aerosols, and the estimation of the aerosol-induced direct longwave (LW) radiative forcing in the spectral region 5-20 µm at the Earth's surface (BOA; bottom of the atmosphere) and the top of the atmosphere (TOA) in cloud-free atmospheric conditions. These objectives were accomplished by conducting case studies on clear sky, smoky, and dusty conditions that took place in the Great Basin of the USA in 2013. Both the solar and thermal IR measurements and a state-of-the-science radiative transfer model, the LBLDIS, a combination of the Line-By-Line Radiative Transfer Model and the Discrete Ordinate Radiative Transfer (DISORT) solver were employed for the study. The LW aerosol forcing is often not included in climate models because the aerosol effect on the LW is often assumed to be negligible. We lack knowledge of aerosol characteristics in the LW region, and aerosol properties exhibit high variability. We have found that the LW TOA radiative forcing due to fine mode aerosols, mainly associated with small biomass burning smoke particles, is + 0.4 W/m2 which seems to be small, but it is similar to the LW radiative forcing due to increase in CO2 concentration in the Earth's atmosphere since the preindustrial era of 1750 (+ 1.6 W/m2). The LW radiative forcing due to coarse mode aerosols, associated with large airborne mineral dust particles, was found to be as much as + 5.02 W/m2 at the surface and + 1.71 W/m2 at the TOA. All of these significant positive values of the aerosol radiative forcing both at the BOA and TOA indicate that the aerosols have a heating effect in the LW range, which contributes to counterbalancing the cooling effect associated with the aerosol radiative forcing in the shortwave (SW) spectral region. In the meantime, we have found that LW radiative forcing by aerosols is highly sensitive to particle size and complex refractive indices of the aerosol constituents. We have also demonstrated that LW aerosol radiative forcing is somewhat sensitive to the water vapor content in the atmosphere, and increases with the dryness of the atmosphere. This evidence supports our argument that the Great Basin area of the USA, which usually has extremely dry atmospheric conditions, can be an appropriate place to study the dry-desert aerosol climate forcing in a regional scale.An analysis of aerosol IR backscattering shows that the effect significantly contributes to both the BOA and TOA IR forcings, even if the aerosols do not exhibit absorption at all in the thermal IR. The general LW radiative forcing is, therefore, associated with both the absorption and scattering effects of the aerosols. Neglecting LW scattering will result in an underestimation of LW radiative forcing by aerosols.Finally, the discrepancy between the FTIR-observed and modeled radiance with aerosols indicates a significant uncertainty, which demands further research on the LW optical properties of fine and coarse mode aerosol.