Abstract

In situ observations of aerosol and cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) and the GISS GCM Model II' with an online aerosol simulation and explicit aerosol-cloud interactions are used to quantify the uncertainty in radiative forcing and autoconversion rate from application of Köhler theory. Simulations suggest that application of Köhler theory introduces a 10-20% uncertainty in global average indirect forcing and 2-11% uncertainty in autoconversion. Regionally, the uncertainty in indirect forcing ranges between 10-20%, and 5-50% for autoconversion. These results are insensitive to the range of updraft velocity and water vapor uptake coefficient considered. This study suggests that Köhler theory (as implemented in climate models) is not a significant source of uncertainty for aerosol indirect forcing but can be substantial for assessments of aerosol effects on the hydrological cycle in climatically sensitive regions of the globe. This implies that improvements in the representation of GCM subgrid processes and aerosol size distribution will mostly benefit indirect forcing assessments. Predictions of autoconversion, by nature, will be subject to considerable uncertainty; its reduction may require explicit representation of size-resolved aerosol composition and mixing state. Copyright 2007 by the American Geophysical Union.

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