Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Black Carbon and Sulfate Aerosols in the Arctic: Long-term Trends, Radiative Impacts, and Source Attributions

Presentation Date
Monday, December 11, 2017 at 1:55pm
New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center - 393-394



The Arctic has warmed dramatically in recent decades. As one of the important short-lived climate forcers, aerosols affect the Arctic radiative budget directly by interfering radiation and indirectly by modifying clouds. Light-absorbing particles (e.g., black carbon) in snow/ice can reduce the surface albedo. The direct radiative impact of aerosols on the Arctic climate can be either warming or cooling, depending on their composition and location, which can further alter the poleward heat transport. Anthropogenic emissions, especially, BC and SO2, have changed drastically in low/mid-latitude source regions in the past few decades. Arctic surface observations at some locations show that BC and sulfate aerosols had a decreasing trend in the recent decades. In order to understand the impact of long-term emission changes on aerosols and their radiative effects, we use the Community Earth System Model (CESM) equipped with an explicit BC and sulfur source-tagging technique to quantify the source-receptor relationships and decadal trends of Arctic sulfate and BC and to identify variations in their atmospheric transport pathways from lower latitudes. The simulation was conducted for 36 years (1979-2014) with prescribed sea surface temperatures and sea ice concentrations. To minimize potential biases in modeled large-scale circulations, wind fields in the simulation are nudged toward an atmospheric reanalysis dataset, while atmospheric constituents including water vapor, clouds, and aerosols are allowed to evolve according to the model physics. Both anthropogenic and open fire emissions came from the newly released CMIP6 datasets, which show strong regional trends in BC and SO2 emissions during the simulation time period. Results show that emissions from East Asia and South Asia together have the largest contributions to Arctic sulfate and BC concentrations in the upper troposphere, which have an increasing trend. The strong decrease in emissions from Europe, Russia and North America contributed significantly to the overall decreasing trend in Arctic BC and sulfate, especially, in the lower troposphere. The long-term changes in the spatial distributions of aerosols, their radiative impacts and source attributions, along with implications for the Arctic warming trend, will be discussed.

Funding Program Area(s)