Articles | Volume 20, issue 12
31 Dec 2002
 | 31 Dec 2002

Letter to the Editor
Aerosol radiative forcing over land: effect of surface and cloud reflection

S. K. Satheesh

Abstract. It is now clearly understood that atmospheric aerosols have a significant impact on climate due to their important role in modifying the incoming solar and outgoing infrared radiation. The question of whether aerosol cools (negative forcing) or warms (positive forcing) the planet depends on the relative dominance of absorbing aerosols. Recent investigations over the tropical Indian Ocean have shown that, irrespective of the comparatively small percentage contribution in optical depth ( ~ 11%), soot has an important role in the overall radiative forcing. However, when the amount of absorbing aerosols such as soot are significant, aerosol optical depth and chemical composition are not the only determinants of aerosol climate effects, but the altitude of the aerosol layer and the altitude and type of clouds are also important. In this paper, the aerosol forcing in the presence of clouds and the effect of different surface types (ocean, soil, vegetation, and different combinations of soil and vegetation) are examined based on model simulations, demonstrating that aerosol forcing changes sign from negative (cooling) to positive (warming) when reflection from below (either due to land or clouds) is high.

Key words. Atmospheric composition and structure (aerosols and particles) History of Geophysics (atmospheric sciences) Hydrology (anthropogenic effects)