April 23, 2024
Journal Article

Rapid saturation of cloud water adjustments to shipping emissions


Human aerosol emissions change cloud properties by providing additional cloud condensation nuclei. This increases cloud droplet numbers, which in turn affects other cloud properties like liquid water content, and ultimately cloud albedo. These adjustments are poorly constrained, making aerosol effects the most uncertain part of anthropogenic climate forcing. Here we show that cloud droplet number and water content react differently to changing emission amounts in shipping exhausts. We use information about ship positions and modelled emission amounts together with reanalysis winds and satellite retrievals of cloud properties. The analysis reveals that cloud droplet numbers respond linearly to emission amount over a large range (1-10 kg h-1), before the response saturates. Liquid water increases in raining clouds, and increases are constant over the emission ranges observed. There is evidence that this is due to compensating effects under rainy and non-rainy conditions, consistent with suppression of rain by enhanced aerosol. This has implications for our understanding of cloud processes and may improve the way clouds are represented in climate models, in particular by changing parameterizations of liquid water responses to aerosol.

Published: April 23, 2024


Manshausen P., D. Watson-Parris, M. Christensen, J. Jalkanen, and P. Stier. 2023. Rapid saturation of cloud water adjustments to shipping emissions. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 23, no. 19:12545–12555. PNNL-SA-184682. doi:10.5194/acp-23-12545-2023