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Journal Articles Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Year : 2023

The impact of aerosols on stratiform clouds over southern West Africa: a large-eddy-simulation study


Low-level stratiform clouds (LLSCs) covering a large area appear frequently during the wet monsoon season in southern West Africa. This region is also a place where different types of aerosols coexist, including biomass burning aerosols coming from central and southern Africa and aerosols emitted by local anthropogenic activities. We investigate the indirect and semi-direct effects of these aerosols on the life cycle of LLSCs by conducting a case study based on airborne and ground-based observations from the field campaign of Dynamic-Aerosol-Chemistry-Cloud-Interaction in West Africa (DACCIWA). This case is modeled using a large-eddy-simulation (LES) model with fine resolution and in situ aerosol measurements, including size distribution and chemical composition. The model has successfully reproduced the observed life cycle of the LLSC, from stratus formation to stabilization during the night and to upward development after sunrise until break-up of the cloud deck in the late afternoon. Additional sensitivity simulations using different measured aerosol profiles also suggest that aerosols can affect the cloud life cycle through both the indirect and semi-direct effects. As expected, modeled cloud microphysical features, including cloud droplet number concentration, mean radius, and thus cloud reflectivity, are all controlled by aerosol concentration. However, it is found that the variation in cloud reflectivity induced by different aerosol profiles is not always the only factor in determining the incoming solar radiation at the ground and thus for the cloud life cycle after sunrise. Instead, the difference in cloud fraction brought by dry-air entrainment from above and thus the speed of consequent evaporation – also influenced by aerosol concentration – is another important factor to consider. Clouds influenced by higher aerosol concentrations and thus with a higher number concentration and smaller sizes of cloud droplets are found to evaporate more easily and thus impose a lower cloud fraction. In addition, our sensitivity runs including versus excluding aerosol direct radiative effects have also demonstrated the impacts specifically of solar absorption by black carbon on the cloud life cycle. The semi-direct effect resulting from an excessive atmospheric heating of up to 12 K d−1 by black carbon in our modeled cases is found to lower the cloud top as well as the liquid water path, reducing surface incoming solar radiation and dry entrainment and increasing the cloud fraction.
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hal-04255114 , version 1 (23-10-2023)





Lambert Delbeke, Chien Wang, Pierre Tulet, Cyrielle Denjean, Maurin Zouzoua, et al.. The impact of aerosols on stratiform clouds over southern West Africa: a large-eddy-simulation study. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 2023, 23 (20), pp.13329-13354. ⟨10.5194/acp-23-13329-2023⟩. ⟨hal-04255114⟩
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