Can the Impact of Aerosols on Deep Convection be Isolated from Meteorological Effects in Atmospheric Observations?

Wojciech W. Grabowski Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

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Abstract

Influence of pollution on dynamics of deep convection continues to be a controversial topic. Arguably, only carefully designed numerical simulations can clearly separate the impact of aerosols from the effects of meteorological factors that affect moist convection. This paper argues that such a separation is virtually impossible using observations because of the insufficient accuracy of atmospheric measurements and the fundamental nature of the interaction between deep convection and its environment. To support this conjecture, results from numerical simulations are presented that apply modeling methodology previously developed by the author. The simulations consider small modifications, difficult to detect in observations, of the initial sounding, surface fluxes, and large-scale forcing tendencies. All these represent variations of meteorological conditions that affect deep convective dynamics independently of aerosols. The setup follows the case of daytime convective development over land based on observations during the Large-Scale Biosphere–Atmosphere (LBA) field project in Amazonia. The simulated observable macroscopic changes of convection, such as the surface precipitation and upper-tropospheric cloudiness, are similar to or larger than those resulting from changes of cloud condensation nuclei from pristine to polluted conditions studied previously using the same modeling case. Observations from Phase III of the Global Atmospheric Research Program Atlantic Tropical Experiment (GATE) are also used to support the argument concerning the impact of the large-scale forcing. The simulations suggest that the aerosol impacts on dynamics of deep convection cannot be isolated from meteorological effects, at least for the daytime development of unorganized deep convection considered in this study.

© 2018 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Wojciech W. Grabowski, grabow@ucar.edu

This article is included in the Aerosol-Cloud-Precipitation-Climate Interaction Special Collection.

Abstract

Influence of pollution on dynamics of deep convection continues to be a controversial topic. Arguably, only carefully designed numerical simulations can clearly separate the impact of aerosols from the effects of meteorological factors that affect moist convection. This paper argues that such a separation is virtually impossible using observations because of the insufficient accuracy of atmospheric measurements and the fundamental nature of the interaction between deep convection and its environment. To support this conjecture, results from numerical simulations are presented that apply modeling methodology previously developed by the author. The simulations consider small modifications, difficult to detect in observations, of the initial sounding, surface fluxes, and large-scale forcing tendencies. All these represent variations of meteorological conditions that affect deep convective dynamics independently of aerosols. The setup follows the case of daytime convective development over land based on observations during the Large-Scale Biosphere–Atmosphere (LBA) field project in Amazonia. The simulated observable macroscopic changes of convection, such as the surface precipitation and upper-tropospheric cloudiness, are similar to or larger than those resulting from changes of cloud condensation nuclei from pristine to polluted conditions studied previously using the same modeling case. Observations from Phase III of the Global Atmospheric Research Program Atlantic Tropical Experiment (GATE) are also used to support the argument concerning the impact of the large-scale forcing. The simulations suggest that the aerosol impacts on dynamics of deep convection cannot be isolated from meteorological effects, at least for the daytime development of unorganized deep convection considered in this study.

© 2018 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Wojciech W. Grabowski, grabow@ucar.edu

This article is included in the Aerosol-Cloud-Precipitation-Climate Interaction Special Collection.

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