Relative Influence of Visible and Infrared Optical Properties of a Stratospheric Aerosol Layer on the Global Climate

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  • 1 National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colo. 80303
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Abstract

A simple radiative energy balance model has been developed to assess the impact of stratospheric aerosols on the global climate through their effect on the equilibrium global mean surface temperature. With the assumptions that the radiation in the atmosphere can be treated as diffuse radiation and that the effect of the gases in the stratosphere can be approximated by equivalent gray absorbers and scatterers, an analytic expression which depends only on the optical properties of the aerosol and the planetary albedo is derived for the fractional change in the upward flux of terrestrial infrared radiation at the base of the stratospheric aerosol layer. The fractional change in the upward flux of infrared radiation is then directly related to changes in the global mean surface temperature by using existing results of climate model and radiative convective model calculations. Mie theory is used to compute the scattering and absorbing properties of the aerosol for a range of visible and infrared indices of refraction. Sample calculations are presented that show the fractional change in the upward flux of infrared radiation at the base of the layer as a function of particle size for a specified mass concentration of stratospheric aerosols. The results indicate that both small particles (radii ≲0.05 μm) and large particles (radii ≳ 1.0 μm) generally have a greater influence on terrestrial infrared radiation than on incident solar radiation; therefore, these particles contribute to warming at the surface. Particles of intermediate sizes affect the incident solar radiation more strongly than they affect the terrestrial radiation and thereby contribute to cooling at the surface. The results also demonstrate the feasibility of estimating the largest possible surface temperature response to a given increase in the mass concentration of stratospheric aerosols. Calculations were also performed to enable comparison of the results from the present model with those obtained by approximating the effect of an increase in stratospheric aerosols by means of an equivalent reduction in the solar constant. It is shown that the effects of the aerosols on terrestrial radiation must be negligible, and the aerosols must be nonabsorbing at solar wavelengths in order for the results of the present model to agree with those obtained by assuming a reduction in the solar constant.

Abstract

A simple radiative energy balance model has been developed to assess the impact of stratospheric aerosols on the global climate through their effect on the equilibrium global mean surface temperature. With the assumptions that the radiation in the atmosphere can be treated as diffuse radiation and that the effect of the gases in the stratosphere can be approximated by equivalent gray absorbers and scatterers, an analytic expression which depends only on the optical properties of the aerosol and the planetary albedo is derived for the fractional change in the upward flux of terrestrial infrared radiation at the base of the stratospheric aerosol layer. The fractional change in the upward flux of infrared radiation is then directly related to changes in the global mean surface temperature by using existing results of climate model and radiative convective model calculations. Mie theory is used to compute the scattering and absorbing properties of the aerosol for a range of visible and infrared indices of refraction. Sample calculations are presented that show the fractional change in the upward flux of infrared radiation at the base of the layer as a function of particle size for a specified mass concentration of stratospheric aerosols. The results indicate that both small particles (radii ≲0.05 μm) and large particles (radii ≳ 1.0 μm) generally have a greater influence on terrestrial infrared radiation than on incident solar radiation; therefore, these particles contribute to warming at the surface. Particles of intermediate sizes affect the incident solar radiation more strongly than they affect the terrestrial radiation and thereby contribute to cooling at the surface. The results also demonstrate the feasibility of estimating the largest possible surface temperature response to a given increase in the mass concentration of stratospheric aerosols. Calculations were also performed to enable comparison of the results from the present model with those obtained by approximating the effect of an increase in stratospheric aerosols by means of an equivalent reduction in the solar constant. It is shown that the effects of the aerosols on terrestrial radiation must be negligible, and the aerosols must be nonabsorbing at solar wavelengths in order for the results of the present model to agree with those obtained by assuming a reduction in the solar constant.

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