The objective of this study is to document and evaluate recent changes and updates to the module for aerosols and aerosol–cloud–radiation interactions in the atmospheric module CAM4-Oslo of the core version of the Norwegian Earth System Model (NorESM), NorESM1-M. Particular attention is paid to the role of natural organics, sea salt, and mineral dust in determining the gross aerosol properties as well as the anthropogenic contribution to these properties and the associated direct and indirect radiative forcing. The aerosol module is extended from earlier versions that have been published, and includes life-cycling of sea salt, mineral dust, particulate sulphate, black carbon, and primary and secondary organics. The impacts of most of the numerous changes since previous versions are thoroughly explored by sensitivity experiments. The most important changes are: modified prognostic sea salt emissions; updated treatment of precipitation scavenging and gravitational settling; inclusion of biogenic primary organics and methane sulphonic acid (MSA) from oceans; almost doubled production of land-based biogenic secondary organic aerosols (SOA); and increased ratio of organic matter to organic carbon (OM/OC) for biomass burning aerosols from 1.4 to 2.6. Compared with in situ measurements and remotely sensed data, the new treatments of sea salt and dust aerosols give smaller biases in near-surface mass concentrations and aerosol optical depth than in the earlier model version. The model biases for mass concentrations are approximately unchanged for sulphate and BC. The enhanced levels of modeled OM yield improved overall statistics, even though OM is still underestimated in Europe and overestimated in North America. The global anthropogenic aerosol direct radiative forcing (DRF) at the top of the atmosphere has changed from a small positive value to −0.08 W m−2 in CAM4-Oslo. The sensitivity tests suggest that this change can be attributed to the new treatment of biomass burning aerosols and gravitational settling. Although it has not been a goal in this study, the new DRF estimate is closer both to the median model estimate from the AeroCom intercomparison and the best estimate in IPCC AR4. Estimated DRF at the ground surface has increased by ca. 60%, to −1.89 W m−2. We show that this can be explained by new emission data and omitted mixing of constituents between updrafts and downdrafts in convective clouds. The increased abundance of natural OM and the introduction of a cloud droplet spectral dispersion formulation are the most important contributions to a considerably decreased estimate of the indirect radiative forcing (IndRF). The IndRF is also found to be sensitive to assumptions about the coating of insoluble aerosols by sulphate and OM. The IndRF of −1.2 W m−2, which is closer to the IPCC AR4 estimates than the previous estimate of −1.9 W m−2, has thus been obtained without imposing unrealistic artificial lower bounds on cloud droplet number concentrations.
Snow consists of non-spherical grains of various shapes and sizes. Still, in radiative transfer calculations, snow grains are often treated as spherical. This also applies to the computation of snow albedo in the Snow, Ice, and Aerosol Radiation (SNICAR) model and in the Los Alamos sea ice model, version 4 (CICE4), both of which are employed in the Community Earth System Model and in the Norwegian Earth System Model (NorESM). In this study, we evaluate the effect of snow grain shape on climate simulated by NorESM in a slab ocean configuration of the model. An experiment with spherical snow grains (SPH) is compared with another (NONSPH) in which the snow shortwave single-scattering properties are based on a combination of three non-spherical snow grain shapes optimized using measurements of angular scattering by blowing snow. The key difference between these treatments is that the asymmetry parameter is smaller in the non-spherical case (0.77–0.78 in the visible region) than in the spherical case ( ≈ 0.89). Therefore, for the same effective snow grain size (or equivalently, the same specific projected area), the snow broadband albedo is higher when assuming non-spherical rather than spherical snow grains, typically by 0.02–0.03. Considering the spherical case as the baseline, this results in an instantaneous negative change in net shortwave radiation with a global-mean top-of-the-model value of ca. −0.22 W m−2. Although this global-mean radiative effect is rather modest, the impacts on the climate simulated by NorESM are substantial. The global annual-mean 2 m air temperature in NONSPH is 1.17 K lower than in SPH, with substantially larger differences at high latitudes. The climatic response is amplified by strong snow and sea ice feedbacks. It is further demonstrated that the effect of snow grain shape could be largely offset by adjusting the snow grain size. When assuming non-spherical snow grains with the parameterized grain size increased by ca. 70 %, the climatic differences to the SPH experiment become very small. Finally, the impact of assumed snow grain shape on the radiative effects of absorbing aerosols in snow is discussed.
The offline FLEXible PARTicle (FLEXPART) stochastic dispersion model is currently a community model used by many scientists. Here, an alternative FLEXPART model version has been developed and tailored to use with the meteorological output data generated by the CMIP5-version of the Norwegian Earth System Model (NorESM1-M). The atmospheric component of the NorESM1-M is based on the Community Atmosphere Model (CAM4); hence, this FLEXPART version could be widely applicable and it provides a new advanced tool to directly analyse and diagnose atmospheric transport properties of the state-of-the-art climate model NorESM in a reliable way. The adaptation of FLEXPART to NorESM required new routines to read meteorological fields, new post-processing routines to obtain the vertical velocity in the FLEXPART coordinate system, and other changes. These are described in detail in this paper. To validate the model, several tests were performed that offered the possibility to investigate some aspects of offline global dispersion modelling. First, a comprehensive comparison was made between the tracer transport from several point sources around the globe calculated online by the transport scheme embedded in CAM4 and the FLEXPART model applied offline on output data. The comparison allowed investigating several aspects of the transport schemes including the approximation introduced by using an offline dispersion model with the need to transform the vertical coordinate system, the influence on the model results of the sub-grid-scale parameterisations of convection and boundary layer height and the possible advantage entailed in using a numerically non-diffusive Lagrangian particle solver. Subsequently, a comparison between the reference FLEXPART model and the FLEXPART–NorESM/CAM version was performed to compare the well-mixed state of the atmosphere in a 1-year global simulation. The two model versions use different methods to obtain the vertical velocity but no significant difference in the results was found. However, for both model versions there was some degradation in the well-mixed state after 1 year of simulation with the build-up of a bias and an increased scatter. Finally, the capability of the new combined modelling system in producing realistic, backward-in-time transport statistics was evaluated calculating the average footprint over a 5-year period for several measurement locations and by comparing the results with those obtained with the reference FLEXPART model driven by re-analysis fields. This comparison confirmed the effectiveness of the combined modelling system FLEXPART with NorESM in producing realistic transport statistics.
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