Anthropogenic aerosols are composed of a variety of aerosol types and components including water-soluble inorganic species (e.g., sulfate, nitrate, ammonium), condensed organic species, elemental or black carbon, and mineral dust. Previous estimates of the clear sky forcing by anthropogenic sulfate aerosols and by organic biomass-burning aerosols indicate that this forcing is of sufficient magnitude to mask the effects of anthropogenic greenhouse gases over large regions. Here, the uncertainty in the forcing by these aerosol types is estimated. The clear sky forcing by other anthropogenic aerosol components cannot be estimated with confidence, although the forcing by these aerosol types appears to be smaller than that by sulfate and biomass-burning aerosols.
The cloudy sky forcing by anthropogenic aerosols, wherein aerosol cloud condensation nuclei concentrations are increased, thereby increasing cloud droplet concentrations and cloud albedo and possibly influencing cloud persistence, may also be significant. In contrast to the situation with the clear sky forcing, estimates of the cloudy sky forcing by anthropogenic aerosols are little more than guesses, and it is not possible to quantify the uncertainty of the estimates.
In view of present concerns over greenhouse gas-induced climate change, this situation dictates the need to quantify the forcing by anthropogenic aerosols and to define and minimize uncertainties in the calculated forcings. In this article, a research strategy for improving the estimates of the clear sky forcing is defined. The strategy encompasses five major, and necessarily coordinated, activities: surface-based observations of aerosol chemical and physical properties and their influence on the radiation field; aircraft-based observations of the same properties; process studies to refine model treatments; satellite observations of aerosol abundance and size distribution; and modeling studies to demonstrate consistency between the observations, to provide guidance for determination of the most important parameters, and to allow extension of the limited set of observations to the global scale. Such a strategy, if aggressively implemented, should allow these effects to be incorporated into climate models in the next several years. A similar strategy for defining the magnitude of the cloudy sky forcing should also be possible, but the less firm understanding of this forcing suggests that research of a more exploratory nature be carried out before undertaking a research strategy of the magnitude recommended for the clear sky forcing.
*Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California.
+University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.
**ENVAIR, Richland, Washington.
++Pacific Northwest Laboratory, Richland, Washington.
#Environmental Measurements Laboratory, New York, New York.
@Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Berkeley, California.
##NOAA Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado.
@@National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado.
+Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, New York.
++NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, New York.