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Direct radiative forcing and atmospheric absorption by boundary layer aerosols in the southeastern US: model estimates on the basis of new observations


In an effort to reduce uncertainties in the quantification of aerosol direct radiative forcing (ADRF) in the southeastern United States (US), a field column experiment was conducted to measure aerosol radiative properties and effects at Mt. Mitchell, North Carolina, and at an adjacent valley site. The experimental period was from June 1995 to mid-December 1995. The aerosol optical properties (single scattering albedo and asymmetry factor) needed to compute ADRF were obtained on the basis of a procedure involving a Mie code and a radiative transfer code in conjunction with the retrieved aerosol size distribution, aerosol optical depth, and diffuse-to-direct solar irradiance ratio. The regional values of ADRF at the surface and top of atmosphere (TOA), and atmospheric aerosol absorption are derived using the obtained aerosol optical properties as inputs to the column radiation model (CRM) of the community climate model (CCM3). The cloud-free instantaneous TOA ADRFs for highly polluted (HP), marine (M) and continental (C) air masses range from 20.3 to −24.8, 1.3 to −10.4, and 1.9 to −13.4 W m−2, respectively. The mean cloud-free 24-h ADRFs at the TOA (at the surface) for HP, M, and C air masses are estimated to be −8±4 (−33±16), −7±4 (−13±8), and −0.14±0.05 (−8±3) W m−2, respectively. On the assumption that the fractional coverage of clouds is 0.61, the annual mean ADRFs at the TOA and the surface are −2±1, and −7±2 W m−2, respectively. This also implies that aerosols currently heat the atmosphere over the southeastern US by 5±3 W m−2 on annual timescales due to the aerosol absorption in the troposphere.

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