How much of the global aerosol optical depth is found in the boundary layer and free troposphere?

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Abstract

The global aerosol extinction from the CALIOP space lidar was used to compute aerosol optical depth (AOD) over a 9-year period (2007-2015) and partitioned between the boundary layer (BL) and the free troposphere (FT) using BL heights obtained from the ERA-Interim archive. The results show that the vertical distribution of AOD does not follow the diurnal cycle of the BL but remains similar between day and night highlighting the presence of a residual layer during night. The BL and FT contribute 69 and 31 %, respectively, to the global tropospheric AOD during daytime in line with observations obtained in Aire sur l'Adour (France) using the Light Optical Aerosol Counter (LOAC) instrument. The FT AOD contribution is larger in the tropics than at mid-latitudes which indicates that convective transport largely controls the vertical profile of aerosols. Over oceans, the FT AOD contribution is mainly governed by long-range transport of aerosols from emission sources located within neighboring continents. According to the CALIOP aerosol classification, dust and smoke particles are the main aerosol types transported into the FT. Overall, the study shows that the fraction of AOD in the FT - and thus potentially located above low-level clouds - is substantial and deserves more attention when evaluating the radiative effect of aerosols in climate models. More generally, the results have implications for processes determining the overall budgets, sources, sinks and transport of aerosol particles and their description in atmospheric models.

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Bourgeois, Q., Ekman, A. M. L., Renard, J. B., Krejci, R., Devasthale, A., Bender, F. A. M., … Tackett, J. L. (2018). How much of the global aerosol optical depth is found in the boundary layer and free troposphere? Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 18(10), 7709–7720. https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-18-7709-2018

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