Effect of Amazon Smoke on Cloud Microphysics and Albedo-Analysis from Satellite Imagery

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  • a NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
  • | b Center for Climate System Research, University of Tokyo, Hongo, Bunyo-ku, Tokyo, Japan
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Abstract

NOAA Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer images taken over the Brazilian Amazon Basin during the biomass burning season of 1987 are used to study the effect of smoke aerosol particles on the properties of low cumulus and stratocumulus clouds. The reflectance at a wavelength of 0.64 µm and the drop size, derived from the cloud reflectance at 3.75 µm, are studied for tens of thousands of clouds. The opacity of the smoke layer adjacent to each cloud is also monitored simultaneously. Though from satellite data it is impossible to derive all the parameters that influence cloud properties and smoke–cloud interaction (e.g., detailed aerosol particles size distribution and chemistry, liquid water content, etc.); satellite data can be used to generate large-scale statistics of the properties of clouds and surrounding aerosol (e.g., smoke optical thickness, cloud-drop size, and cloud reflection of solar radiation) from which the interaction of aerosol with clouds can be surmised. In order to minimize the effect of variations in the precipitable water vapor and in other smoke and cloud properties, biomass burning in the tropics is chosen as the study topic, and the results are averaged for numerous clouds with the same ambient smoke optical thickness.

It is shown in this study that the presence of dense smoke (an increase in the optical thickness from 0.1 to 2.0) can reduce the remotely sensed drop size of continental cloud drops from 15 to 9 µm. Due to both the high initial reflectance of clouds in the visible part of the spectrum and the presence of graphitic carbon, the average cloud reflectance at 0.64 µm is reduced from 0.71 to 0.68 for an increase in smoke optical thickness from 0.1 to 2.0. The measurements are compared to results from other years, and it is found that, as predicted, high concentration of aerosol particles causes a decrease in the cloud-drop size and that smoke darkens the bright Amazonian clouds. Comparison with theoretical computations based on Twomey's model show that by using the measured reduction in the cloud-drop size due to the presence of smoke it is possible to explain the reduction in the cloud reflectance at 0.64 µm for smoke imagery index of −0.02 to −0.03.

Smoke particles are hygroscopic and have a similar size distribution to maritime and anthropogenic sulfuric aerosol particles. Therefore, these results may also be representative of the interaction of sulfuric particles with clouds.

Abstract

NOAA Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer images taken over the Brazilian Amazon Basin during the biomass burning season of 1987 are used to study the effect of smoke aerosol particles on the properties of low cumulus and stratocumulus clouds. The reflectance at a wavelength of 0.64 µm and the drop size, derived from the cloud reflectance at 3.75 µm, are studied for tens of thousands of clouds. The opacity of the smoke layer adjacent to each cloud is also monitored simultaneously. Though from satellite data it is impossible to derive all the parameters that influence cloud properties and smoke–cloud interaction (e.g., detailed aerosol particles size distribution and chemistry, liquid water content, etc.); satellite data can be used to generate large-scale statistics of the properties of clouds and surrounding aerosol (e.g., smoke optical thickness, cloud-drop size, and cloud reflection of solar radiation) from which the interaction of aerosol with clouds can be surmised. In order to minimize the effect of variations in the precipitable water vapor and in other smoke and cloud properties, biomass burning in the tropics is chosen as the study topic, and the results are averaged for numerous clouds with the same ambient smoke optical thickness.

It is shown in this study that the presence of dense smoke (an increase in the optical thickness from 0.1 to 2.0) can reduce the remotely sensed drop size of continental cloud drops from 15 to 9 µm. Due to both the high initial reflectance of clouds in the visible part of the spectrum and the presence of graphitic carbon, the average cloud reflectance at 0.64 µm is reduced from 0.71 to 0.68 for an increase in smoke optical thickness from 0.1 to 2.0. The measurements are compared to results from other years, and it is found that, as predicted, high concentration of aerosol particles causes a decrease in the cloud-drop size and that smoke darkens the bright Amazonian clouds. Comparison with theoretical computations based on Twomey's model show that by using the measured reduction in the cloud-drop size due to the presence of smoke it is possible to explain the reduction in the cloud reflectance at 0.64 µm for smoke imagery index of −0.02 to −0.03.

Smoke particles are hygroscopic and have a similar size distribution to maritime and anthropogenic sulfuric aerosol particles. Therefore, these results may also be representative of the interaction of sulfuric particles with clouds.

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