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Aerosol-Cloud-Precipitation Interactions in Marine Stratocumulus Clouds


Chen, Yi-Chun (2013) Aerosol-Cloud-Precipitation Interactions in Marine Stratocumulus Clouds. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/9SGJ-TT23.


Marine stratocumulus clouds are generally optically thick and shallow, exerting a net cooling influence on climate. Changes in atmospheric aerosol levels alter cloud microphysics (e.g., droplet size) and cloud macrophysics (e.g., liquid water path, cloud thickness), thereby affecting cloud albedo and Earth’s radiative balance. To understand the aerosol-cloud-precipitation interactions and to explore the dynamical effects, three-dimensional large-eddy simulations (LES) with detailed bin-resolved microphysics are performed to explore the diurnal variation of marine stratocumulus clouds under different aerosol levels and environmental conditions. It is shown that the marine stratocumulus cloud albedo is sensitive to aerosol perturbation under clean background conditions, and to environmental conditions such as large-scale divergence rate and free tropospheric humidity.

Based on the in-situ Eastern Pacific Emitted Aerosol Cloud Experiment (E-PEACE) during Jul. and Aug. 2011, and A-Train satellite observation of 589 individual ship tracks during Jun. 2006-Dec. 2009, an analysis of cloud albedo responses in ship tracks is presented. It is found that the albedo response in ship tracks depends on the mesoscale cloud structure, the free tropospheric humidity, and cloud top height. Under closed cell structure (i.e., cloud cells ringed by a perimeter of clear air), with sufficiently dry air above cloud tops and/or higher cloud top heights, the cloud albedo can become lower in ship tracks. Based on the satellite data, nearly 25% of ship tracks exhibited a decreased albedo. The cloud macrophysical responses are crucial in determining both the strength and the sign of the cloud albedo response to aerosols.

To understand the aerosol indirect effects on global marine warm clouds, multisensory satellite observations, including CloudSat, MODIS, CALIPSO, AMSR-E, ECMWF, CERES, and NCEP, have been applied to study the sensitivity of cloud properties to aerosol levels and to large scale environmental conditions. With an estimate of anthropogenic aerosol fraction, the global aerosol indirect radiative forcing has been assessed.

As the coupling among aerosol, cloud, precipitation, and meteorological conditions in the marine boundary layer is complex, the integration of LES modeling, in-situ aircraft measurements, and global multisensory satellite data analyses improves our understanding of this complex system.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:stratocumulus; aerosol-cloud interactions; aerosol
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Geological and Planetary Sciences
Major Option:Environmental Science and Engineering
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Seinfeld, John H.
Thesis Committee:
  • Bordoni, Simona (chair)
  • Ingersoll, Andrew P.
  • Stephens, Graeme Leslie
  • Seinfeld, John H.
Defense Date:30 May 2013
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:06102013-101017079
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:7881
Deposited By: Yi-Chun Chen
Deposited On:22 Sep 2015 20:17
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 00:02

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