Impacts of greenhouse gases and aerosol direct and indirect effects on clouds and radiation in atmospheric GCM simulations of the 1930 1989 period
Among anthropogenic perturbations of the Earth’s atmosphere, greenhouse gases and aerosols are considered to have a major impact on the energy budget through their impact on radiative fluxes. We use three ensembles of simulations with the LMDZ general circulation model to investigate the radiative impacts of five species of greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N2O, CFC-11 and CFC-12) and sulfate aerosols for the period 1930 1989. Since our focus is on the atmospheric changes in clouds and radiation from greenhouse gases and aerosols, we prescribed sea-surface temperatures in these simulations. Besides the direct impact on radiation through the greenhouse effect and scattering of sunlight by aerosols, strong radiative impacts of both perturbations through changes in cloudiness are analysed. The increase in greenhouse gas concentration leads to a reduction of clouds at all atmospheric levels, thus decreasing the total greenhouse effect in the longwave spectrum and increasing absorption of solar radiation by reduction of cloud albedo. Increasing anthropogenic aerosol burden results in a decrease in high-level cloud cover through a cooling of the atmosphere, and an increase in the low-level cloud cover through the second aerosol indirect effect. The trend in low-level cloud lifetime due to aerosols is quantified to 0.5 min day-1 decade-1 for the simulation period. The different changes in high (decrease) and low-level (increase) cloudiness due to the response of cloud processes to aerosols impact shortwave radiation in a contrariwise manner, and the net effect is slightly positive. The total aerosol effect including the aerosol direct and first indirect effects remains strongly negative.