May 8, 2024
Journal Article

Biomass-burning smoke's properties and its interactions with marine stratocumulus clouds in WRF-CAM5 and southeastern Atlantic field campaigns


A large part of the uncertainty in climate projections comes from uncertain aerosol properties and aerosol–cloud interactions as well as the difficulty in remotely sensing them. The southeastern Atlantic functions as a natural laboratory to study biomass-burning smoke and to constrain this uncertainty. We address these gaps by comparing theWeather Research and Forecasting with Chemistry Community Atmosphere Model (WRF-CAM5) to the multi-campaign observations ORACLES (ObseRvations of Aerosols above CLouds and their intEractionS), CLARIFY (CLoud–Aerosol–Radiation Interaction and Forcing), and LASIC (Layered Atlantic Smoke Interactions with Clouds) in the southeastern Atlantic in August 2017 to evaluate a large range of the model’s aerosol chemical properties, size distributions, processes, and transport, as well as aerosol–cloud interactions. Overall, while WRF-CAM5 is able to represent smoke properties and transport, some key discrepancies highlight the need for further analysis. Observations of smoke composition show an overall decrease in aerosol mean diameter as smoke ages over 4–12 d, while the model lacks this trend. A decrease in the OA V BC mass ratio and OA V COCE1 suggests that the model is missing processes that selectively remove OA from the particle phase, such as photolysis and heterogeneous aerosol chemistry. A large (factor of 2:5) enhancement in sulfate from the free troposphere (FT) to the boundary layerCE2 (BL) in observations is not present in the model, pointing to the importance of properly representing secondary sulfate aerosol formation from marine dimethyl sulfide and gaseous SO2 smoke emissions. The model shows a persistent overprediction of aerosols in the marine boundary layer (MBL), especially for clean conditions, which multiple pieces of evidence link to weaker aerosol removal in the modeled MBL than reality. This evidence includes several model features, such as not representing observed shifts towards smaller aerosol diameters, inaccurate concentration ratios of carbon monoxide and black carbon, underprediction of heavy rain events, and little evidence of persistent biases in modeled entrainment. The average below-cloud aerosol activation fraction (NCLD=NAER) remains relatively constant in WRF-CAM5 between field campaigns ( 0:65), while it decreases substantially in observations from ORACLES ( 0:78) to CLARIFY ( 0:5), which could be due to the model misrepresentation of clean aerosol conditions. WRF-CAM5 also overshoots an observed upper limit on liquid cloud droplet concentration around NCLD D400–500 cm??3 and overpredicts the spread in NCLD. This could be related to the model often drastically overestimating the strength of boundary layer vertical turbulence by up to a factor of 10. We expect these results to motivate similar evaluations of other modeling systems and promote model development to reduce critical uncertainties in climate simulations.

Published: May 8, 2024


Howes C., P.E. Saide, H. Coe, A.N. Dobracki, S. Freitag, J. Haywood, and S.B. Howell, et al. 2023. Biomass-burning smoke's properties and its interactions with marine stratocumulus clouds in WRF-CAM5 and southeastern Atlantic field campaigns. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 23, no. 21:13911–13940. PNNL-SA-197967. doi:10.5194/acp-23-13911-2023

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