Impacts of aerosols on seasonal precipitation and snowpack in California based on convection-permitting WRF-Chem simulations

Longtao Wu, Yu Gu, Jonathan H. Jiang, Hui Su, Nanpeng Yu, Chun Zhao, Yun Qian, Bin Zhao, Kuo Nan Liou, Yong Sang Choi

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14 Scopus citations


A version of the WRF-Chem model with fully coupled aerosol-meteorology-snowpack is employed to investigate the impacts of various aerosol sources on precipitation and snowpack in California. In particular, the impacts of locally emitted anthropogenic and dust aerosols, and aerosols transported from outside California are studied. We differentiate three pathways of aerosol effects: aerosol-radiation interaction (ARI), aerosol-snow interaction (ASI), and aerosol-cloud interaction (ACI). The convection-permitting model simulations show that precipitation, snow water equivalent (SWE), and surface air temperature averaged over the whole domain (34-42°N, 117-124°W, not including ocean points) are reduced when aerosols are included, therefore reducing large biases in these variables due to the absence of aerosol effects in the model. Aerosols affect California water resources through the warming of mountaintops and the reduction of precipitation; however, different aerosol sources play different roles in changing surface temperature, precipitation, and snowpack in California by means of various weights of the three pathways. ARI by all aerosols mainly cools the surface, leading to slightly increased SWE over the mountains. Locally emitted dust aerosols warm the surface of mountaintops through ASI, in which the reduced snow albedo associated with dusty snow leads to more surface absorption of solar radiation and reduced SWE. Transported aerosols and local anthropogenic aerosols play a dominant role in increasing nonprecipitating clouds but reducing precipitation through ACI, leading to reduced SWE and runoff on the Sierra Nevada, as well as the warming of mountaintops associated with decreased SWE and hence lower surface albedo. The average changes in surface temperature from October 2012 to June 2013 are about -0.19 and 0.22K for the whole domain and over mountaintops, respectively. Overall, the averaged reduction during October to June is about 7% for precipitation, 3% for SWE, and 7% for surface runoff for the whole domain, while the corresponding numbers are 12, 10, and 10% for the mountaintops. The reduction in SWE is more significant in a dry year, with 9% for the whole domain and 16% for the mountaintops. The maximum reduction of ∼ 20% in precipitation occurs in May and is associated with the maximum aerosol loading, leading to the largest decrease in SWE and surface runoff over that period. It is also found that dust aerosols can cause early snowmelt on the mountaintops and reduced surface runoff after April.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5529-5547
Number of pages19
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number8
StatePublished - 23 Apr 2018

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© Author(s) 2018.


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