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Anthropogenic aerosols may have increased upper tropospheric humidity in the 20th century

by M. Bister, M. Kulmala
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics ()

Abstract

Recent simulations of deep convection with a spectral microphysics cloud model show that an increase in aerosol concentration can have a significant effect on the na- ture of convection with more ice precipitation and less warm rain in polluted air. The cloud lifetime and the area covered by cloud anvils of deep convection are also larger for pol- luted air. Therefore, it is possible that the increase of anthro- pogenic aerosols in most of the 20th century has increased humidity and perhaps also cloudiness in the mid- to upper troposphere. Satellite data of upper tropospheric relative hu- midity in 1979–1997 and observed changes in cloudiness support this hypothesis. As changes in upper tropospheric humidity strongly affect longwave radiation, it is possible that anthropogenic aerosols have had a significant warming effect in addition to their other known effects on radiation.

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