Constraints on interactions between aerosols and clouds on a global scale from a combination of MODIS-CERES satellite data and climate simulations
Satellite-based cloud top effective radius retrieved by the CERES Science Team were combined with simulated aerosol concentrations from CCCma CanAM4 to examine relationships between aerosol and cloud that underlie the first aerosol indirect (cloud albedo) effect. Evidence of a strong negative relationship between sulphate, and organic aerosols, with cloud top effective radius was found for low clouds, indicating both aerosol types are contributing to the first indirect effect on a global scale. Furthermore, effects of aerosol on the cloud droplet effective radius are more pronounced for larger cloud liquid water paths. While CanAM4 broadly reproduces the observed relationship between sulphate aerosols and cloud droplets, it does not reproduce the dependency of cloud top droplet size on organic aerosol concentrations nor the dependency on cloud liquid water path. Simulations with a modified version of the model yield a more realistic dependency of cloud droplets on organic carbon. The robustness of the methods used in the study are investigated by repeating the analysis using aerosol simulated by the GOCART model and cloud top effective radii derived from the MODIS Science Team.