Although fundamental to the planetary radiative balance, aerosol impacts are highly uncertain in climate simulations because of the uneven distribution of aerosol sources and the complex interactions with radiation and clouds that are difficult to represent in climate models. This study proposes that aquaplanet configurations represent an idealized framework to investigate aerosol effects. As a simple demonstration, a series of aquaplanet simulations with the Community Atmosphere Model version 6 shows that the spatial distribution of aerosol emissions changes the aerosol effective radiative forcing even with unchanged total emissions. Some statistical properties of the simulations are presented to show that relatively short model integrations yield robust results. Much of the aerosol effect is shown to arise from aerosol‐cloud interactions, especially through rapid adjustments associated with the aerosol lifetime effect that alters the cloud optical thickness.