High resolution simulations of aerosol microphysics in a global and regionally nested chemical transport model
Abstract:The aerosol indirect effect is the largest source of forcing uncertainty in current climate models. This effect arises from the influence of aerosols on the reflective properties and lifetimes of clouds, and its magnitude depends on how many particles can serve as cloud droplet formation sites. Assessing levels of this subset of particles (cloud condensation nuclei, or CCN) requires knowledge of aerosol levels and their global distribution, size distributions, and composition.
A key tool necessary to advance our understanding of CCN is the use of global aerosol microphysical models, which simulate the processes that control aerosol size distributions: nucleation, condensation/evaporation, and coagulation. Previous studies have found important differences in CO (Chen, D. et al., 2009) and ozone (Jang, J., 1995) modeled at different spatial resolutions, and it is reasonable to believe that short-lived, spatially-variable aerosol species will be similarly – or more – susceptible to model resolution effects.
The goal of this study is to determine how CCN levels and spatial distributions change as simulations are run at higher spatial resolution – specifically, to evaluate how sensitive the model is to grid size, and how this affects comparisons against observations. Higher resolution simulations are necessary supports for model/measurement synergy. Simulations were performed using the global chemical transport model GEOS-Chem (v9-02). The years 2008 and 2009 were simulated at 4ox5o and 2ox2.5o globally and at 0.5ox0.667o over Europe and North America. Results were evaluated against surface-based particle size distribution measurements from the European Supersites for Atmospheric Aerosol Research project.
The fine-resolution model simulates more spatial and temporal variability in ultrafine levels, and better resolves topography. Results suggest that the coarse model predicts systematically lower ultrafine levels than does the fine-resolution model. Significant differences are also evident with respect to model-measurement comparisons, and will be discussed.