Statistical properties of aerosol-cloud-precipitation interactions in South America

T. A. Jones, S. A. Christopher
2010 Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics  
Given the complex interaction between aerosol, cloud, and atmospheric properties, it is difficult to extract their individual effects to observed rainfall amount. This research uses principle component analysis (PCA) that combines Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aerosol and cloud products, NCEP Reanalysis atmospheric products, and rainrate estimates from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) precipitation radar (PR) to assess if aerosols affect warm rain
more » ... warm rain processes. Data collected during September 2006 over the Amazon basin in South America during the biomass-burning season are used. The goal of this research is to combine these observations into a smaller number of variables through PCA with each new variable having a unique physical interpretation. In particular, we are concerned with PC variables whose weightings include aerosol optical thickness (AOT), as these may be an indicator of aerosol indirect effects. If they are indeed occurring, then PC values that include AOT should change as a function of rainrate. To emphasize the advantage of PCA, changes in aerosol, cloud, and atmospheric observations are compared to rainrate. Comparing no-rain, rain, and heavy rain only (>5 mm h −1 ) samples, we find that cloud thicknesses, humidity, and upward motion are all greater during rain and heavy rain conditions. However, no statistically significant difference in AOT exists between each sample, indicating that atmospheric conditions are more important to rainfall than aerosol concentrations as expected. If aerosols are affecting warm process clouds, it would be expected that stratiform precipitation would decrease as a function increasing aerosol concentration through either Twomey and/or semidirect effects. PCA extracts the latter signal in a variable labeled PC2, which explains 15% of the total variance and is Correspondence to: T. A. Jones
doi:10.5194/acp-10-2287-2010 fatcat:atf6qx73xjd7dkgfkrwibnniym