Host Model Uncertainties in Aerosol Radiative Forcing Estimates: Results from the AeroCom Prescribed Intercomparison Study

TitleHost Model Uncertainties in Aerosol Radiative Forcing Estimates: Results from the AeroCom Prescribed Intercomparison Study
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Number9
Date Published02/2013
Abstract / Summary

Simulated multi-model "diversity" in aerosol direct radiative forcing estimates is often perceived as measure of aerosol uncertainty. However, current models used for aerosol radiative forcing calculations vary considerably in model components relevant for forcing calculations and the associated "host-model uncertainties" are generally convoluted with the actual aerosol uncertainty. In this AeroCom Prescribed intercomparison study we systematically isolate and quantify host model uncertainties on aerosol forcing experiments through prescription of identical aerosol radiative properties in nine participating models. 

Even with prescribed aerosol radiative properties, simulated clear-sky and all-sky aerosol radiative forcings show significant diversity. For a purely scattering case with globally constant optical depth of 0.2, the global-mean all-sky top-of-atmosphere radiative forcing is −4.51 W m−2 and the inter-model standard deviation is 0.70 W m−2, corresponding to a relative standard deviation of 15%. For a case with partially absorbing aerosol with an aerosol optical depth of 0.2 and single scattering albedo of 0.8, the forcing changes to 1.26 W m−2, and the standard deviation increases to 1.21 W m−2, corresponding to a significant relative standard deviation of 96%. However, the top-of-atmosphere forcing variability owing to absorption is low, with relative standard deviations of 9% clear-sky and 12% all-sky.

Scaling the forcing standard deviation for a purely scattering case to match the sulfate radiative forcing in the AeroCom Direct Effect experiment, demonstrates that host model uncertainties could explain about half of the overall sulfate forcing diversity of 0.13 W m−2 in the AeroCom Direct Radiative Effect experiment. 

Host model errors in aerosol radiative forcing are largest in regions of uncertain host model components, such as stratocumulus cloud decks or areas with poorly constrained surface albedos, such as sea ice. Our results demonstrate that host model uncertainties are an important component of aerosol forcing uncertainty that require further attention.

URLhttp://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/12/25487/2012/acpd-12-25487-2012.html
DOI10.5194/acpd-12-25487-2012
Journal: Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Year of Publication: 2013
Number: 9
Date Published: 02/2013

Simulated multi-model "diversity" in aerosol direct radiative forcing estimates is often perceived as measure of aerosol uncertainty. However, current models used for aerosol radiative forcing calculations vary considerably in model components relevant for forcing calculations and the associated "host-model uncertainties" are generally convoluted with the actual aerosol uncertainty. In this AeroCom Prescribed intercomparison study we systematically isolate and quantify host model uncertainties on aerosol forcing experiments through prescription of identical aerosol radiative properties in nine participating models. 

Even with prescribed aerosol radiative properties, simulated clear-sky and all-sky aerosol radiative forcings show significant diversity. For a purely scattering case with globally constant optical depth of 0.2, the global-mean all-sky top-of-atmosphere radiative forcing is −4.51 W m−2 and the inter-model standard deviation is 0.70 W m−2, corresponding to a relative standard deviation of 15%. For a case with partially absorbing aerosol with an aerosol optical depth of 0.2 and single scattering albedo of 0.8, the forcing changes to 1.26 W m−2, and the standard deviation increases to 1.21 W m−2, corresponding to a significant relative standard deviation of 96%. However, the top-of-atmosphere forcing variability owing to absorption is low, with relative standard deviations of 9% clear-sky and 12% all-sky.

Scaling the forcing standard deviation for a purely scattering case to match the sulfate radiative forcing in the AeroCom Direct Effect experiment, demonstrates that host model uncertainties could explain about half of the overall sulfate forcing diversity of 0.13 W m−2 in the AeroCom Direct Radiative Effect experiment. 

Host model errors in aerosol radiative forcing are largest in regions of uncertain host model components, such as stratocumulus cloud decks or areas with poorly constrained surface albedos, such as sea ice. Our results demonstrate that host model uncertainties are an important component of aerosol forcing uncertainty that require further attention.

DOI: 10.5194/acpd-12-25487-2012
Citation:
Stier, P, N Schutgens, H Bian, O Boucher, M Chin, S Ghan, N Huneeus, et al.  2013.  "Host Model Uncertainties in Aerosol Radiative Forcing Estimates: Results from the AeroCom Prescribed Intercomparison Study."  Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.  https://doi.org/10.5194/acpd-12-25487-2012.