Complex aerosol-cloud-precipitation interactions lead to large differences in estimates of aerosol impacts on climate among general circulation models (GCMs) and satellite retrievals. Typically, precipitating hydrometeors are treated diagnostically in most GCMs, and their radiative effects are ignored. Here, we quantify how the treatment of precipitation influences the simulated effective radiative forcing due to aerosol-cloud interactions (ERFaci) using a stateof- the-art GCM with a two-moment prognostic precipitation scheme that incorporates the radiative effect of precipitating particles, and we investigate how microphysical process representations are related to macroscopic climate effects. Prognostic precipitation substantially weakens the magnitude of ERFaci (by approximately 54 %) compared with the traditional diagnostic scheme, and this is the result of the increased longwave (warming) and weakened shortwave (cooling) components of ERFaci. The former is attributed to additional adjustment processes induced by falling snow, and the latter stems largely from riming of snow by collection of cloud droplets. The significant reduction in ERFaci does not occur without prognostic snow, which contributes mainly by buffering the cloud response to aerosol perturbations through depleting cloud water via collection. Prognostic precipitation also alters the regional pattern of ERFaci, particularly over northern midlatitudes where snow is abundant. The treatment of precipitation is thus a highly influential controlling factor of ERFaci, contributing more than other uncertain "tunable"processes related to aerosol-cloud-precipitation interactions. This change in ERFaci caused by the treatment of precipitation is large enough to explain the existing difference in ERFaci between GCMs and observations.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Atmospheric Science