BER launches Environmental System Science Program. Visit our new website under construction!

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights


Simpler Aerosol Representation Captures Essence of Their Influences on Climate
Published: April 07, 2012
Posted: August 20, 2012

Aerosols affect the energy balance by scattering and absorbing sunlight and through their influence on cloud droplet and ice particle number concentrations. Climate simulations must account for all important radiative forcing mechanisms, including those from human-caused aerosols. DOE scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) developed a detailed aerosol microphysical scheme, including seven distinct aerosol modes, each with its own size distribution and chemical mixing properties. However, it is computationally too expensive to represent this complexity in multi-century climate simulations. To address this challenge, the team developed a simpler three-mode aerosol scheme and compared simulations using the minimal representation of the aerosol to a more complex benchmark, showing that the minimal representation is both accurate enough for climate change simulations and sufficiently inexpensive to enable multi-century simulations. For either scheme, direct aerosol scattering and absorption effects nearly cancel one another. However, the aerosol indirect effect on clouds has a substantial cooling effect from enhanced low-level clouds in spite of a 25% offset from enhanced high-altitude clouds. The simpler, more efficient representation is being used in the Community Earth System Model to simulate future climate change for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Reference: Ghan, S. J., X. Liu, R. C. Easter, R. Zaveri, P. J. Rasch, J. H. Yoon, and B. Eaton. 2012. "Toward a Minimal Representation of Aerosols in Climate Models: Comparative Decomposition of Aerosol Direct, Semi-Direct, and Indirect Radiative Forcing," Journal of Climate, DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00650.1, in press. (Reference link)

Contact: Renu Joseph, SC-23.1, (301) 903-9237, Dorothy Koch, SC-23.1, (301) 903-0105
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling
  • Research Area: Atmospheric System Research

Division: SC-33.1 Earth and Environmental Sciences Division, BER

 

BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Jan 11, 2022
No Honor Among Copper Thieves
Findings provide a novel means to manipulate methanotrophs for a variety of environmental and in [more...]

Dec 06, 2021
New Genome Editing Tools Can Edit Within Microbial Communities
Two new technologies allow scientists to edit specific species and genes within complex laborato [more...]

Oct 27, 2021
Fungal Recyclers: Fungi Reuse Fire-Altered Organic Matter
Degrading pyrogenic (fire-affected) organic matter is an important ecosystem function of fungi i [more...]

Oct 19, 2021
Microbes Offer a Glimpse into the Future of Climate Change
Scientists identify key features in microbes that predict how warming affects carbon dioxide emi [more...]

Aug 25, 2021
Assessing the Production Cost and Carbon Footprint of a Promising Aviation Biofuel
Biomass-derived DMCO has the potential to serve as a low-carbon, high-performance jet fuel blend [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)