Potential Impacts of Pollution Aerosol and Dust Acting As Cloud-Nucleating Aerosol on Precipitation in the Colorado River Basin

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Vandana Jha, William R Cotton and Gustavo G Carrio, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, United States
The southwest US has huge demands on water resources. The Colorado River Basin (CRB) is potentially affected by anthropogenic aerosol pollution and dust acting as cloud-nucleating aerosol as well as impacting snowpack albedo.The specific objective of this research is to quantify the impacts of both dust and pollution aerosols on wintertime precipitation in the Colorado Mountains for the years 2005-2006. We examine the combined effects of anthropogenic pollution aerosol and dust serving as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN), ice nuclei (IN) and giant CCN(GCCN) on precipitation in the CRB. Anthropogenic pollution can enhance droplet concentrations, and decrease collision and coalescence and ice particle riming largely via the “spillover” effect. Dust can serve as IN and enhance precipitation in wintertime orographic clouds. Dust coated with sulfates or originating over dry lake beds can serve as GCCN which when wetted can result in larger cloud droplets and thereby enhance the warm-rain collision and coalescence process and ice particle riming. But smaller dust particles coated with sulfates, can decrease collision and coalescence and ice particle riming similar to anthropogenic pollution aerosols. The Colorado State University (CSU) Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (RAMS) version 6.0 is used for this study. RAMS was modified to ingest GEOS-CHEM output data and periodically update aerosol fields. GEOS-CHEM is a chemical transport model which uses assimilated meteorological data from the NASA Goddard Earth Observation System (GEOS). The aerosol data comprise a sum of hydrophobic and hydrophilic black carbon and organic aerosol, hydrophilic SOAs, hydrocarbon oxidation and inorganic aerosols (nitrate, sulfate and ammonium). In addition, a RAMS-based dust source and transport model is used. Preliminary analysis suggests pollution dominates over dust resulting in a decrease in precipitation via the spillover effect. Dust serving as GCCN and IN tend to enhance ice particle riming thus total precipitation is enhanced in a dusty atmosphere. Because dust is more episodic and aerosol pollution is more pervasive throughout the winter season, the combined response to dust and aerosol pollution is a net reduction of water resources in the CRB.