Radiative and Cloud Microphysical Effects of Forest Fire Smoke over North America and Siberia

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Vant-Hull, Brian Lee Charles
Li, Zhanqing
Remer, Lorraine A
Aerosol affects climate both through direct radiative effects and by indirect effects on cloud development. Absorbing aerosols have additional influence on the vertical temperature profile of the atmospheric column. Radiative effects of smoke are studied for the case of a Canadian smoke plume that blanketed the U.S. mid-Atlantic seaboard. Optical properties derived from aircraft in situ measurements demonstrate that the smoke formed a layer with a base 2 km above the surface, and absorptive heating in this layer could have strengthened and maintained the subsidence inversion responsible for the layer structure. An optical model of the smoke formed from a blend of aircraft and AERONET measurements allows retrieval of the smoke aerosol by satellite, so that comparisons are possible to measurements made by any instrument in the region. For this case an optical model based purely on AERONET measurements provides the best satellite retrieval of optical depth, but a model based mainly on aircraft measurements agreed best with spectrum wide-forcing measurements, demonstrating the dangers of a simple optical model for all retrievals. A study done in the Amazonian burning season demonstrates that sun/observation geometry is useful to control bias from shadowed and illuminated portions of clouds. Sub-pixel mixing of cloud and aerosol also produces bias that is minimized for optically thick clouds. Since such biases can never be fully eliminated, the only valid study is a comparison of two data sets with equivalent geometry and so, presumably, equal bias. Canada and Siberia were chosen so that forested areas are compared at the same latitudes. Summertime Canadian aerosol is primarily smoke, while Europe contributes a great deal of sulfate to Siberia aerosol. The average cloud droplet size was significantly smaller in Siberia, as expected from the higher sulfate load with greater activity as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). The aerosol indirect effect on cloud microphysics increases with aerosol loading in both regions, but much more so in Canada. This is attributed to a large sulfate background in Siberia, so the addition of smoke makes a smaller percentage change to the amount of cloud CCN.