Modelling the optical properties of aerosols in a chemical transport model
Abstract:According to the IPCC fifth assessment report (2013), clouds and aerosols still contribute to the largest uncertainty when estimating and interpreting changes to the Earth's energy budget. Therefore, understanding the interaction between radiation and aerosols is both crucial for remote sensing observations and modelling the climate forcing arising from aerosols.
Carbon particles are the largest contributor to the aerosol absorption of solar radiation, thereby enhancing the warming of the planet. Modelling the radiative properties of carbon particles is a hard task and involves many uncertainties arising from the difficulties of accounting for the morphologies and heterogeneous chemical composition of the particles. This study aims to compare two ways of modelling the optical properties of aerosols simulated by a chemical transport model. The first method models particle optical properties as homogeneous spheres and are externally mixed. This is a simple model that is particularly easy to use in data assimilation methods, since the optics model is linear. The second method involves a core-shell internal mixture of soot, where sulphate, nitrate, ammonia, organic carbon, sea salt, and water are contained in the shell. However, by contrast to previously used core-shell models, only part of the carbon is concentrated in the core, while the remaining part is homogeneously mixed with the shell.
The chemical transport model (CTM) simulations are done regionally over Europe with the Multiple-scale Atmospheric Transport and CHemistry (MATCH) model, developed by the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI). The MATCH model was run with both an aerosol dynamics module, called SALSA, and with a regular "bulk" approach, i.e., a mass transport model without aerosol dynamics. Two events from 2007 are used in the analysis, one with high (22/12-2007) and one with low (22/6-2007) levels of elemental carbon (EC) over Europe.
The results of the study help to assess the significance of aerosol morphology for modelling radiative forcing and aerosol optical properties relevant to interpreting remote sensing observations. The uncertainties introduced by the optics model are gauged by comparing them to model uncertainties related to the inclusion or omission of aerosol dynamic processes.