Sensitivity studies for incorporating the direct effect of sulfate aerosols into climate models
AdvisorDickinson, Robert E.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractAerosols have been identified as a major element of the climate system known to scatter and absorb solar and infrared radiation, but the development of procedures for representing them is still rudimentary. This study addresses the need to improve the treatment of sulfate aerosols in climate models by investigating how sensitive radiative particles are to varying specific sulfate aerosol properties. The degree to which sulfate particles absorb or scatter radiation, termed the direct effect, varies with the size distribution of particles, the aerosol mass density, the aerosol refractive indices, the relative humidity and the concentration of the aerosol. This study develops 504 case studies of altering sulfate aerosol chemistry, size distributions, refractive indices and densities at various ambient relative humidity conditions. Ammonium sulfate and sulfuric acid aerosols are studied with seven distinct size distributions at a given mode radius with three corresponding standard deviations implemented from field measurements. These test cases are evaluated for increasing relative humidity. As the relative humidity increases, the complex index of refraction and the mode radius for each distribution correspondingly change. Mie theory is employed to obtain the radiative properties for each case study. The case studies are then incorporated into a box model, the National Center of Atmospheric Research's (NCAR) column radiation model (CRM), and NCAR's community climate model version 3 (CCM3) to determine how sensitive the radiative properties and potential climatic effects are to altering sulfate properties. This study found the spatial variability of the sulfate aerosol leads to regional areas of intense aerosol forcing (W/m²). These areas are particularly sensitive to altering sulfate properties. Changes in the sulfate lognormal distribution standard deviation can lead to substantial regional differences in the annual aerosol forcing greater than 2 W/m². Changes in the aerosol chemical composition can lead to regional changes in the aerosol forcing greater than 0.5 W/m². The relative humidity is shown to greatly influence the aerosol optical properties. Given the differences in aerosol forcing found due to varying sulfate properties, this study does not encourage the use of a single aerosol distribution to represent sulfate particles of all air masses.
Degree ProgramGraduate College