Uncertainty in aerosol–cloud radiative forcing is driven by clean conditions

Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics European Geosciences Union 23:7 (2023) 4115-4122


Edward Gryspeerdt, Adam C Povey, Roy Gordon Grainger


Atmospheric aerosols and their impact on cloud properties remain the largest uncertainty in the human forcing of the climate system. By increasing the concentration of cloud droplets (Nd), aerosols reduce droplet size and increase the reflectivity of clouds (a negative radiative forcing). Central to this climate impact is the susceptibility of cloud droplet number to aerosol (β), the diversity of which explains much of the variation in the radiative forcing from aerosol–cloud interactions (RFaci) in global climate models. This has made measuring β a key target for developing observational constraints of the aerosol forcing.

While the aerosol burden of the clean, pre-industrial atmosphere has been demonstrated as a key uncertainty for the aerosol forcing, here we show that the behaviour of clouds under these clean conditions is of equal importance for understanding the spread in radiative forcing estimates between models and observations. This means that the uncertainty in the aerosol impact on clouds is, counterintuitively, driven by situations with little aerosol. Discarding clean conditions produces a close agreement between different model and observational estimates of the cloud response to aerosol but does not provide a strong constraint on the RFaci. This makes constraining aerosol behaviour in clean conditions an important goal for future observational studies.

Uncertainty in aerosol-cloud radiative forcing is driven by clean conditions

Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics European Geosciences Union (2023)


Edward Gryspeerdt, Adam Povey, Roy Grainger, Otto Hasekamp, Christina Hsu, Jane Mulcahy, Andrew Sayer, Armin Sorooshian

Tonga eruption increases chance of temporary surface temperature anomaly above 1.5 °C

Nature Climate Change Springer Nature 13 (2023) 127-129


Stuart Jenkins, Chris Smith, Myles Allen, Roy Grainger


On 15 January 2022, the Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha’apai (HTHH) eruption injected 146 MtH2O and 0.42 MtSO2 into the stratosphere. This large water vapour perturbation means that HTHH will probably increase the net radiative forcing, unusual for a large volcanic eruption, increasing the chance of the global surface temperature anomaly temporarily exceeding 1.5 °C over the coming decade. Here we estimate the radiative response to the HTHH eruption and derive the increased risk that the global mean surface temperature anomaly shortly exceeds 1.5 °C following the eruption. We show that HTHH has a tangible impact of the chance of imminent 1.5 °C exceedance (increasing the chance of at least one of the next 5 years exceeding 1.5 °C by 7%), but the level of climate policy ambition, particularly the mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants, dominates the 1.5 °C exceedance outlook over decadal timescales.

Quantification of gas, ash, and sulphate aerosols in volcanic plumes from open path Fourier transform infrared (OP-FTIR) emission measurements at Stromboli volcano, Italy

Frontiers in Earth Science Frontiers Media 10 (2023) 1005738


Smekens J-F, Tamsin Mather, MR Burton, A La Spina, K Kabbabe, B Esse, M Varnam, RG Grainger


Field-portable Open Path Fourier Transform Infrared (OP-FTIR) spectrometers can be used to remotely measure the composition of volcanic plumes using absorption spectroscopy, providing invaluable data on total gas emissions. Quantifying the temporal evolution of gas compositions during an eruption helps develop models of volcanic processes and aids in eruption forecasting. Absorption measurements require a viewing geometry which aligns infrared source, plume, and instrument, which can be challenging. Here, we present a fast retrieval algorithm to estimate quantities of gas, ash and sulphate aerosols from thermal emission OP-FTIR measurements, and the results from two pilot campaigns on Stromboli volcano in Italy in 2019 and 2021. We validate the method by comparing time series of SO2 slant column densities retrieved using our method with those obtained from a conventional UV spectrometer, demonstrating that the two methods generally agree to within a factor of 2. The algorithm correctly identifies ash-rich plumes and gas bursts associated with explosions and quantifies the mass column densities and particle sizes of ash and sulphate aerosols (SA) in the plume. We compare the ash sizes retrieved using our method with the particle size distribution (PSD) of an ash sample collected during the period of measurements in 2019 by flying a Remotely Piloted Aircraft System into the path of a drifting ash plume and find that both modes of the bimodal PSD (a fine fraction with diameter around 5–10 μm and a coarse fraction around 65 μm) are identified within our datasets at different times. We measure a decrease in the retrieved ash particle size with distance downwind, consistent with settling of larger particles, which we also observed visually. We measure a decrease in the SO2/SA ratio as the plume travels downwind, coupled with an increase in measured SA particle size (range 2–6 μm), suggesting rapid hygroscopic particle growth and/or SO2 oxidation. We propose that infrared emission spectroscopy can be used to examine physical and chemical changes during plume transport and opens the possibility of remote night-time monitoring of volcanic plume emissions. These ground-based analyses may also aid the refinement of satellite-based aerosol retrievals.

New Insights Into the Relationship Between Mass Eruption Rate and Volcanic Column Height Based On the IVESPA Data Set



Thomas J Aubry, Samantha L Engwell, Costanza Bonadonna, Larry G Mastin, Guillaume Carazzo, Alexa R Van Eaton, David E Jessop, Roy G Grainger, Simona Scollo, Isabelle A Taylor, A Mark Jellinek, Anja Schmidt, Sebastien Biass, Mathieu Gouhier