Simultaneous observations of aerosol-cloud-albedo interactions with three stacked unmanned aerial vehicles

Roberts, GC, Ramana MV, Corrigan C, Kim D, Ramanathan V.  2008.  Simultaneous observations of aerosol-cloud-albedo interactions with three stacked unmanned aerial vehicles. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 105:7370-7375.

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autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle, boundary-layer clouds, ccn spectra, climate, cloud condensation nuclei, cumulus clouds, droplet concentration, effect, effective radius, indirect, long-range transport, Maldives AUAV Campaign, marine, radiative properties, solar absorption, stratocumulus clouds, stratus


Aerosol impacts on climate change are still poorly understood, in part, because the few observations and methods for detecting their effects are not well established. For the first time, the enhancement in cloud albedo is directly measured on a cloud-by-cloud basis and linked to increasing aerosol concentrations by using multiple autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles to simultaneously observe the cloud microphysics, vertical aerosol distribution, and associated solar radiative fluxes. In the presence of long-range transport of dust and anthropogenic pollution, the trade cumuli have higher droplet concentrations and are on average brighter. Our observations suggest a higher sensitivity of radiative forcing by trade cumuli to increases in cloud droplet concentrations. than previously reported owing to a constrained droplet radius such that increases in droplet concentrations also increase cloud liquid water content. This aerosol-cloud forcing efficiency is as much as -60 W m(-2) per 100% percent cloud fraction for a doubling of droplet concentrations and associated increase of liquid water content. Finally, we develop a strategy for detecting aerosol-cloud interactions based on a nondimensional scaling analysis that relates the contribution of single clouds to albedo measurements and illustrates the significance of characterizing cloud morphology in resolving radiometric measurements. This study demonstrates that aerosol-cloud-albedo interactions can be directly observed by simultaneous observations below, in, and above the clouds.