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Statistical Analysis of Aerosol Effects on Simulated Mixed-Phase Clouds and Precipitation in the Alps

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  • 1 Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  • | 2 Joint Institute of the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, and Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
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Abstract

Increasing the aerosol number in warm-phase clouds is thought to decrease the rain formation rate, whereas the physical processes taking place in mixed-phase clouds are more uncertain. Increasing number concentrations of soluble aerosols may reduce the riming efficiency and therefore also decrease precipitation. On the other hand, the glaciation of a cloud by heterogeneous freezing of cloud droplets may enhance the formation of graupel and snow. Using a numerical weather prediction model with coupled aerosol microphysics, it is found, in a statistical framework with 270 clean and polluted 2D simulations of mixed-phase precipitation over an Alpine transect, that the presence of the ice phase determines the magnitude and the sign of the effect of an increasing aerosol number concentration on orographic precipitation. Immersion/condensation freezing is the only ice-nucleating process considered here. It is shown that this indirect aerosol effect is much less pronounced in cold simulations compared to a warmer subset and that cloud glaciation tends to compensate the loss of rain in polluted situations. Comparing the clean and polluted cases, a reduction of rain by 52%, on average (std dev = 25%), over the transect in the polluted cases is found. For frozen precipitation a much broader range of differences is found (mean = +4%, std dev = 60%). Furthermore, this study shows that in comparison with the clean cases more precipitation spills over to the leeward side of the major ridge in the polluted cases (median = +14.6%).

Corresponding author address: Elias M. Zubler, Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Universitätsstrasse 16, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland. E-mail: elias.zubler@env.ethz.ch

Abstract

Increasing the aerosol number in warm-phase clouds is thought to decrease the rain formation rate, whereas the physical processes taking place in mixed-phase clouds are more uncertain. Increasing number concentrations of soluble aerosols may reduce the riming efficiency and therefore also decrease precipitation. On the other hand, the glaciation of a cloud by heterogeneous freezing of cloud droplets may enhance the formation of graupel and snow. Using a numerical weather prediction model with coupled aerosol microphysics, it is found, in a statistical framework with 270 clean and polluted 2D simulations of mixed-phase precipitation over an Alpine transect, that the presence of the ice phase determines the magnitude and the sign of the effect of an increasing aerosol number concentration on orographic precipitation. Immersion/condensation freezing is the only ice-nucleating process considered here. It is shown that this indirect aerosol effect is much less pronounced in cold simulations compared to a warmer subset and that cloud glaciation tends to compensate the loss of rain in polluted situations. Comparing the clean and polluted cases, a reduction of rain by 52%, on average (std dev = 25%), over the transect in the polluted cases is found. For frozen precipitation a much broader range of differences is found (mean = +4%, std dev = 60%). Furthermore, this study shows that in comparison with the clean cases more precipitation spills over to the leeward side of the major ridge in the polluted cases (median = +14.6%).

Corresponding author address: Elias M. Zubler, Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Universitätsstrasse 16, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland. E-mail: elias.zubler@env.ethz.ch
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