Publications

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2012
Auffhammer, M, Ramanathan V, Vincent JR.  2012.  Climate change, the monsoon, and rice yield in India. Climatic Change. 111:411-424.   10.1007/s10584-011-0208-4   AbstractWebsite

Recent research indicates that monsoon rainfall became less frequent but more intense in India during the latter half of the Twentieth Century, thus increasing the risk of drought and flood damage to the country's wet-season (kharif) rice crop. Our statistical analysis of state-level Indian data confirms that drought and extreme rainfall negatively affected rice yield (harvest per hectare) in predominantly rainfed areas during 1966-2002, with drought having a much greater impact than extreme rainfall. Using Monte Carlo simulation, we find that yield would have been 1.7% higher on average if monsoon characteristics, especially drought frequency, had not changed since 1960. Yield would have received an additional boost of nearly 4% if two other meteorological changes (warmer nights and lower rainfall at the end of the growing season) had not occurred. In combination, these changes would have increased cumulative harvest during 1966-2002 by an amount equivalent to about a fifth of the increase caused by improvements in farming technology. Climate change has evidently already negatively affected India's hundreds of millions of rice producers and consumers.

2011
Rehman, IH, Ahmed T, Praveen PS, Kar A, Ramanathan V.  2011.  Black carbon emissions from biomass and fossil fuels in rural India. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. 11:7289-7299.   10.5194/acp-11-7289-2011   AbstractWebsite

Black carbon (BC) emission from biofuel cooking in South Asia and its radiative forcing is a significant source of uncertainty for health and climate impact studies. Quantification of BC emissions in the published literature is either based on laboratory or remote field observations far away from the source. For the first time under Project Surya, we use field measurements taken simultaneously inside rural households, ambient air and vehicular emissions from highways in a rural area in the Indo-Gangetic-Plains region of India to establish the role of both solid biomass based cooking in traditional stoves and diesel vehicles in contributing to high BC and organic carbon (OC), and solar absorption. The major finding of this study is that BC concentrations during cooking hours, both indoors and outdoors, have anomalously large twice-daily peak concentrations reaching 60 mu g m(-3) (median 15-min average value) for indoor and 30 mu g m(-3) (median 15-min average value) for outdoor during the early morning (05:00 to 08:00) and early evening (17:00 to 19:00) hours coinciding with the morning and evening cooking hours. The BC during the non-cooking hours were also large, in the range of 2 to 30 mu g m(-3). The peak indoor BC concentrations reached as high as 1000 mu g m(-3). The large diurnal peaks seen in this study lead to the conclusion that satellite based aerosol studies that rely on once-daily daytime measurements may severely underestimate the BC loading of the atmosphere. The concentration of OC was a factor of 5 larger than BC and furthermore optical data show that absorbing brown carbon was a major component of the OC. The imprint of the cooking hour peaks were seen in the outdoor BC both in the village as well as in the highway. The results have significant implications for climate and epidemiological studies.

2009
Ramanathan, V, Feng Y.  2009.  Air pollution, greenhouse gases and climate change: Global and regional perspectives. Atmospheric Environment. 43:37-50.   10.1016/j.atmosenv.2008.09.063   AbstractWebsite

Greenhouse gases (GHGs) warm the Surface and the atmosphere with significant implications for rainfall, retreat of glaciers and sea ice, sea level, among other factors. About 30 years ago, it was recognized that the increase in tropospheric ozone from air pollution (NO(x), CO and others) is an important greenhouse forcing term. In addition, the recognition of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) on stratospheric ozone and its climate effects linked chemistry and climate strongly. What is less recognized, however, is a comparably major global problem dealing with air pollution. Until about ten years ago, air pollution was thought to be just an urban or a local problem. But new data have revealed that air pollution is transported across continents and ocean basins due to fast long-range transport, resulting in trans-oceanic and trans-continental plumes of atmospheric brown Clouds (ABCs) containing sub micron size particles, i.e., aerosols. ABCs intercept Sunlight by absorbing as well as reflecting it, both of which lead to a large surface dimming. The dimming effect is enhanced further because aerosols may nucleate more cloud droplets, which makes the clouds reflect More solar radiation. The dimming has a Surface cooling effect and decreases evaporation of moisture from the surface, thus slows down the hydrological cycle. On the other hand, absorption of solar radiation by black carbon and some organics increase atmospheric hearing and tend to amplify greenhouse warming of the atmosphere. ABCs are concentrated in regional and mega-city hot spots. Long-range transport from these hot spots causes widespread plumes over the adjacent oceans. Such a pattern Of regionally concentrated Surface dimming and atmospheric Solar heating, accompanied by widespread dimming over the oceans, gives rise to large regional effects. Only during the last decade, we have begun to comprehend the surprisingly large regional impacts. In S. Asia and N. Africa, the large north-south gradient in the ABC dimming has altered both the north-south gradients in sea Surface temperatures and land-ocean contrast in surface temperatures, which in turn slow down the monsoon circulation and decrease rainfall over the continents. On the other hand, heating by black carbon warms the atmosphere at elevated levels from 2 to 6 kin, where most tropical glaciers are located, thus strengthening the effect of GHGs on retreat of snow packs and glaciers in the Hindu Kush-Himalaya-Tibetan glaciers. Globally, the surface cooling effect of ABCs may have masked as Much 47% of the global warming by greenhouse gases, with an uncertainty range of 20-80%. This presents a dilemma since efforts to curb air pollution may unmask the ABC cooling effect and enhance the surface warming. Thus efforts to reduce GHGs and air pollution should be done under one common framework. The uncertainties in our understanding of the ABC effects are large, but we are discovering new ways in which human activities are changing the climate and the environment. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

2008
Lau, KM, Ramanathan V, Wu GX, Li Z, Tsay SC, Hsu C, Sikka R, Holben B, Lu D, Tartari G, Chin M, Koudelova R, Chen H, Ma Y, Huang J, Taniguchi K, Zhang R.  2008.  The Joint Aerosol-Monsoon Experiment - A new challenge for monsoon climate research. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 89:369-+.   10.1175/bams-89-3-369   AbstractWebsite

Aerosol- and moonsoon-related droughts and floods are two of the most serious environmental hazards confronting more than 60% of the population of the world living in the Asian monsoon countries. In recent years, thanks to improved satellite and in situ observations, and better models, great strides have been made in aerosol and monsoon research, respectively. There is now a growing body of evidence suggesting that interaction of aerosol forcing with monsoon dynamics may alter the redistribution of energy in the atmosphere and at the Earth's surface, thereby influencing monsoon water cycle and climate. In this article, the authors describe the scientific rationale and challenges for an integrated approach to study the interactions between aerosol and monsoon water cycle dynamics. A joint Aerosol-Monsoon Experiment (JAMEX) is proposed for 2007-11, with enhanced observations of the physical and chemical properties, sources and sinks, and long-range transport of aerosols, in conjunction with meteorological and oceanographic observations in the Indo-Pacific continental and oceanic regions. JAMEX will leverage on coordination among many ongoing and planned national research programs on aerosols and monsoons in China, India, Japan, Nepal, Italy, and the United States, as well as international research programs of the World Climate Research Program (WCRP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

2006
Corrigan, CE, Ramanathan V, Schauer JJ.  2006.  Impact of monsoon transitions on the physical and optical properties of aerosols. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. 111   10.1029/2005jd006370   AbstractWebsite

Project Atmospheric Brown Cloud ( ABC- Asia) has focused on measuring the anthropogenic influence of aerosols, including black carbon, to determine the extent of sunlight dimming and radiative forcing over the Asian region. As part of this project, an observatory was built in the Republic of Maldives for the long- term monitoring of climate. An inaugural campaign was conducted to investigate the influence of the shifting monsoon seasons on aerosols and climate change. The presence of black carbon and other anthropogenic aerosols over the Indian Ocean varies with the cyclic nature of the Indian Monsoon. Roughly every 6 months, the winds change directions from southwest to northeast or vice versa. From June to October the wet monsoon brings clean air into the region from the Southern Hemisphere. Conversely, the dry monsoon brings polluted air from the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia from November through April. As a result, the region becomes charged with black carbon and other anthropogenic pollutants during the dry monsoon. In 2004 the transition between the clean and polluted seasons resulted in nearly an order of magnitude increase of scattering and absorbing aerosols. The change was foreshadowed with small events over a 1 month period prior to the abrupt arrival of pollution over a period of a few days as air from India and Southeast Asia arrived in the Maldives at the surface level. The new, polluted aerosol was characteristically darker since the black carbon concentration increased more substantially than the overall aerosol scattering. As a result, the aerosol coalbedo at a wavelength of 550 nm showed an increase from an average of 0.028 to 0.07. Black carbon mass concentrations increased by an order of magnitude from 0.03 to 0.47 mu g/m(3). These measurements suggest a large increase in the aerosol radiative forcing of the region with the arrival of the dry monsoon.

Ramana, MV, Ramanathan V.  2006.  Abrupt transition from natural to anthropogenic aerosol radiative forcing: Observations at the ABC-Maldives Climate Observatory. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. 111   10.1029/2006jd007063   AbstractWebsite

[1] Using aerosol-radiation observations over the north Indian Ocean, we show how the monsoon transition from southwest to northeast flow gives rise to a similar transition in the direct aerosol radiative forcing from natural to anthropogenic forcing. These observations were taken at the newly built aerosol-radiation-climate observatory at the island of Hanimaadhoo (6.776 degrees N, 73.183 degrees E) in the Republic of Maldives. This observatory is established as a part of Project Atmospheric Brown Clouds (ABC) and is referred to as the ABC-Maldives Climate Observatory at Hanimaadhoo (ABC_MCOH). The transition from the southwest monsoon during October to the northeast monsoon flow during early November occurs abruptly over a period of few weeks over ABC-MCOH and reveals a dramatic contrast between the natural marine aerosols transported from the south Indian Ocean by the southwest monsoon and that of the polluted aerosols transported from the south and Southeast Asian region by the northeast monsoon. We document the change in the microphysical properties and the irradiance at the surface, to identify the human signature on aerosol radiative forcing. We first establish the precision of surface radiometric observations by comparing simultaneous observations using calibrated Kipp & Zonen and Eppley pyrheliometers and pyranometers for direct, diffuse and global solar radiation. We show that the direct, diffuse and global radiation can be measured within a precision of about 3 to 5 Wm(-2). Furthermore, when we include the observed aerosol optical properties as input into the Monte Carlo Aerosol Cloud Radiation (MACR) model (developed by us using Indian Ocean Experiment data), the simulated fluxes agree with the observed direct, diffuse and global fluxes within the measurement accuracy. A steady southwest monsoon flow of about 5 to 7 ms(-1) persists until middle of October which switches to an abrupt change in direction to northeast flow of similar speeds bringing in polluted air from south Asia. However, it is not until end of November that a steady northeasterly flow is well established. The abrupt transition is accompanied by a large increase in aerosol optical depth from about 0.1 in October to as high as 0.4 during January, the SSA decreases from 1 to about 0.9, and the Angstrom coefficient increases from about 0.5 (suggesting large particles > 1 micron) to about 1.2 in January (submicron particles) and an increase in aerosol extinction below 3 km altitude. These changes are consistent with the transport of continental pollution from south and Southeast Asia (about 1000 to several 1000 km away from ABC_MCOH) to the north Indian Ocean during the northeast monsoon. The direct aerosol forcing, determined solely from radiometric observations without resorting to models, changes from -5 Wm(-2) during October to -22 Wm(-2) during January. About 50% of this forcing occurs in the photosynthetically active part of the solar spectrum (0.4 to 0.7 micron). MACR shows that the decrease in SSA from 1 to 0.9 changes the aerosol forcing efficiency by a factor of about 2 from about -40 Wm(-2) (per AOD) in October to -80 Wm(-2) (per AOD) in January. Thus the arrival of the brown clouds from south and Southeast Asia has a large seasonal dimming effect over remote parts of the north Indian Ocean. The observational results presented here should be used for validating climate models that attempt to simulate the anthropogenic effects of aerosol forcing on climate. The observational and model results presented in his study shows how near continuous surface based observations can be used to differentiate the human impact on aerosol forcing which is a major challenge for models.