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2008
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.   10.1073/pnas.0710308105   AbstractWebsite

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.

Corrigan, CE, Roberts GC, Ramana MV, Kim D, Ramanathan V.  2008.  Capturing vertical profiles of aerosols and black carbon over the Indian Ocean using autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. 8:737-747.   10.5194/acp-8-737-2008   AbstractWebsite

Measurements of the vertical distribution of aerosol properties provide essential information for generating more accurate model estimates of radiative forcing and atmospheric heating rates compared with employing remotely sensed column averaged properties. A month long campaign over the Indian Ocean during March 2006 investigated the interaction of aerosol, clouds, and radiative effects. Routine vertical profiles of aerosol and water vapor were determined using autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with miniaturized instruments. Comparisons of these airborne instruments with established ground-based instruments and in aircraft-to-aircraft comparisons demonstrated an agreement within 10%. Aerosol absorption optical depths measured directly using the unmanned aircraft differed from columnar AERONET sun-photometer results by only 20%. Measurements of total particle concentration, particle size distributions, aerosol absorption and black carbon concentrations are presented along with the trade wind thermodynamic structure from the surface to 3000 m above sea level. Early March revealed a well-mixed layer up to the cloud base at 500 m above mean sea level (m a.s.l.), followed by a decrease of aerosol concentrations with altitude. The second half of March saw the arrival of a high altitude plume existing above the mixed layer that originated from a continental source and increased aerosol concentrations by more than tenfold, yet the surface air mass showed little change in aerosol concentrations and was still predominantly influenced by marine sources. Black carbon concentrations at 1500 m above sea level increased from 70 ng/m(3) to more than 800 ng/m(3) with the arrival of this polluted plume. The absorption aerosol optical depth increased from as low as 0.005 to as much as 0.035 over the same period. The spectral dependence of the aerosol absorption revealed an absorption Angstrom exponent of 1.0, which is typical of an aerosol with most of its absorption attributed to black carbon and generally indicates the absorbing component originated from fossil fuel sources and other high-temperature combustion sources. The results indicate that surface measurements do not represent the aerosol properties within the elevated layers, especially if these layers are influenced by long range transport.