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The Impact of Aerosols on the Summer Rainfall Frequency in China

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  • 1 School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea
  • 2 Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
  • 3 College of Resources Science and Technology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China
  • 4 School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea
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Abstract

The authors investigate the short-term relationship between aerosol concentrations and summer rainfall frequency in China using the daily surface observations of particulate matters with a diameter of less than 10 μm (PM10) mass concentration, rainfall, and satellite-observed cloud properties. Results in this study reveal that on the time scale of a few days aerosol concentration is positively correlated with the frequency of moderate-rainfall (10–20 mm day−1) days but is negatively correlated with the frequency of light-rainfall (<5 mm day−1) days. Satellite observations of cloud properties show that higher aerosol concentrations are positively correlated with the increase in mixed cloud amount, cloud effective radius, cloud optical depth, and cloud-top heights; this corresponds to the decrease in low-level liquid clouds and the increase in midlevel ice–mixed clouds. Based on this analysis, the authors hypothesize that the increase in aerosol concentration results in the increase in summer rainfall frequency in China via enhanced ice nucleation in the midtroposphere. However, over the past few decades, observations show an increasing long-term trend in aerosol concentration but decreasing trends in summer rainfall frequency and relative humidity (RH) in China. Despite the short-term positive relationship between summer rainfall frequency and aerosol concentration found in this study, the long-term variations in summer rainfall frequency in China are mainly determined by other factors including RH variation possibly caused by global and regional climate changes. A continuous decrease in RH resulting in less summer rainfall frequency may further enhance aerosol concentrations in the future in conjunction with the increase in the anthropogenic emissions.

Corresponding author address: Chang-Hoi Ho, Climate Physics Laboratory, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Seoul National University, Seoul 151-742, Korea. Email: hoch@cpl.snu.ac.kr

Abstract

The authors investigate the short-term relationship between aerosol concentrations and summer rainfall frequency in China using the daily surface observations of particulate matters with a diameter of less than 10 μm (PM10) mass concentration, rainfall, and satellite-observed cloud properties. Results in this study reveal that on the time scale of a few days aerosol concentration is positively correlated with the frequency of moderate-rainfall (10–20 mm day−1) days but is negatively correlated with the frequency of light-rainfall (<5 mm day−1) days. Satellite observations of cloud properties show that higher aerosol concentrations are positively correlated with the increase in mixed cloud amount, cloud effective radius, cloud optical depth, and cloud-top heights; this corresponds to the decrease in low-level liquid clouds and the increase in midlevel ice–mixed clouds. Based on this analysis, the authors hypothesize that the increase in aerosol concentration results in the increase in summer rainfall frequency in China via enhanced ice nucleation in the midtroposphere. However, over the past few decades, observations show an increasing long-term trend in aerosol concentration but decreasing trends in summer rainfall frequency and relative humidity (RH) in China. Despite the short-term positive relationship between summer rainfall frequency and aerosol concentration found in this study, the long-term variations in summer rainfall frequency in China are mainly determined by other factors including RH variation possibly caused by global and regional climate changes. A continuous decrease in RH resulting in less summer rainfall frequency may further enhance aerosol concentrations in the future in conjunction with the increase in the anthropogenic emissions.

Corresponding author address: Chang-Hoi Ho, Climate Physics Laboratory, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Seoul National University, Seoul 151-742, Korea. Email: hoch@cpl.snu.ac.kr

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