Monsoon sensitivity to aerosol direct radiative forcing in the community atmosphere model

by S Sajani, K Krishna Moorthy, K Rajendran and Ravi S Nanjundiah

Aerosol forcing remains a dominant uncertainty in climate studies. The impact of aerosol direct radiative forcing on Indian monsoon is extremely complex and is strongly dependent on the model, aerosol distribution and characteristics specified in the model, modelling strategy employed as well as on spatial and temporal scales.

The present study investigates (i) the aerosol direct radiative forcing impact on mean Indian summer monsoon when a combination of quasi-realistic mean annual cycles of scattering and absorbing aerosols derived from an aerosol transport model constrained with satellite observed Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD)is prescribed, (ii) the dominant feedback mechanism behind the simulated impact of all-aerosol direct radiative forcing on monsoon and (iii) the relativeimpacts of absorbing and scattering aerosols on mean Indian summer monsoon. We have used CAM3, an atmospheric GCM (AGCM) that has a comprehensivetreatment of the aerosol-radiation interaction. This AGCM has been used to perform climate simulations with three different representations of aerosol direct radiative forcing due to the total, scattering aerosols and black carbon aerosols. We have also conducted experiments without any aerosol forcing. Aerosol direct impact due to scattering aerosols causes significant reduction in summer monsoon precipitation over India with a tendency for southward shift of Tropical Convergence Zones (TCZs) over the Indian region. Aerosol forcing reduces surface solar absorption over the primary rainbelt region of India and reduces the surface and lower tropospheric temperatures. Concurrent warming of the lower atmosphere over the warm oceanic region in the  south reduces the land-ocean temperature contrast and weakens the monsoon overturning circulation and the advection of moisture into the landmass. This increases atmospheric  convective stability, and decreases convection, clouds, precipitation and associated latent heat release. Our analysis reveals a defining negative moisture-advection feedback that acts as an internal damping mechanism spinning down the regional hydrological cycle and leading to significant circulation changes in response to external radiative forcing perturbations. When total aerosol loading (both absorbing and scattering aerosols) is prescribed, dust and black carbon aerosols are found to cause significant atmospheric heating over the monsoon region but the aerosol-induced  weakening of meridional lower tropospheric temperature gradient (leading to weaker summer monsoon rainfall) more than offsets the increase in summer-time rainfall resulting from the atmospheric heating effect of absorbing aerosols, leading to a net decrease of summer monsoon rainfall. Further, we have carried out climate simulations with globally constant AODs and also with the constant AODs over the extended Indian region replaced by realistic AODs. Regional aerosol radiative forcing perturbations over the Indian region is found to have impact not only over the region of loading but over remote tropical regions as well. This warrants the need to prescribe realistic aerosol properties in strategic regions such as India in order to accurately assess the aerosol impact.


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