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Aerosol-Water Cycle Interaction: A New Challenge in Monsoon Climate ResearchLong recognized as a major environmental hazard, aerosol is now known to have strong impacts on both regional and global climate. It has been estimated that aerosol may reduce by up to 10% of the seasonal mean solar radiation reaching the earth surface, producing a global cooling effect that opposes global warming (Climate Change 2001). This means that the potential perils that humans have committed to global warming may be far greater than what we can detect at the present. As a key component of the Earth climate system, the water cycle is profoundly affected by the presence of aerosols in the atmosphere. Through the so-called "direct effect", aerosol scatters and/or absorbs solar radiation, thus cooling the earth surface and changing the horizontal and vertical radiational heating contrast in the atmosphere. The heating contrast drives anomalous atmospheric circulation, resulting in changes in convection, clouds, and rainfall. Another way aerosol can affect the water cycle is through the so-called "indirect effects", whereby aerosol increases the number of cloud condensation nuclei, prolongs life time of clouds, and inhibits the growth of cloud drops to raindrops. This leads to more clouds, and increased reflection of solar radiation, and further cooling at the earth surface. In monsoon regions, the response of the water cycle to aerosol forcing is especially complex, not only because of presence of diverse mix of aerosol species with vastly different radiative properties, but also because the monsoon is strongly influenced by ocean and land surface processes, land use, land change, as well as regional and global greenhouse warming effects. Thus, sorting out the impacts of aerosol forcing, and interaction with the monsoon water cycle is a very challenging problem. In this talk, I will offer some insights into how aerosols may impact the Asian monsoon based on preliminary results from satellite observations and climate model experiments. Specifically, I will discuss the "elevated heat pump" hypothesis, involving atmospheric heating by absorbing aerosols (dust and black carbon) over the southern slopes of the Himalayas, and feedback with the deep convection, in modifying monsoon water cycle over South and East Asia. The role of aerosol forcing relative to those due to sea surface temperature and land surface processes, as well as observation requirements to verify such a hypothesis will also be discussed.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Lau, William K. M. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD, United States)
Date Acquired
August 24, 2013
Publication Date
June 14, 2006
Subject Category
Meteorology and Climatology
Meeting Information
CIMAS Visting Science Program(Miami, FL)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.