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Sensitivity of the global circulation to the suppression of precipitation by anthropogenic aerosols

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From recent satellite observations, it is evident that an increase in cloud condensation nuclei-for instance, due to biomass burning-can substantially reduce rain efficiency of convective clouds. This is potentially important for the global climate since the release of latent heat due to condensation of water vapour and fallout of rain from cumulus convection is the most important source for available potential energy in the free troposphere. Beyond this, cumulus convection is a key process in controlling the water vapour content of the atmosphere. The sensitivity of the global climate to modification in rain efficiency of convective clouds due to the suppression of drop coalescence by anthropogenic aerosols is studied by using the atmospheric general circulation model (A-GCM), ECHAM4. This paper presents results from a 15-year sensitivity study, which considers the aerosol effect on warm precipitation formation. Effects on ice processes are not included yet, and therefore the results likely underestimate the magnitude of the full effects due to suppression of precipitation. Instantaneous forcing is large locally (up to 100% reduction of precipitation and the related latent heat release) but confined to small areas, leading to small large-scale mean anomalies in the convective heating and therefore the vertical temperature gradient. We found a definite perturbation of the global circulation, showing distinct sensitivity to the impact of aerosols on suppressing rainfall. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

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