Summary Results from:

Radiative impact of boreal smoke in the Arctic: Observed and modeled
As they relate to the validation of MOD43

Authors: R. S. Stone, G. P. Anderson, E. P. Shettle, E. Andrews, K. Loukachine

Source: Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 113, D14S16, doi:10.1029/2007JD009657, 2008

Link to: Access Publication


The Arctic climate is modulated, in part, by the presence of aerosols that affect the horizontal and vertical distribution of radiant energy passing through the atmosphere. Aerosols affect the surface-atmosphere radiation balance directly through interactions with solar and terrestrial radiation and indirectly through interactions with cloud particles. During summer 2004 forest fires destroyed vast areas of boreal forest in Alaska and western Canada, releasing smoke into the atmosphere. Smoke aerosol passing over instrumented field sites near Barrow, Alaska, was monitored to determine its physical and optical properties and its impact on the surface radiation budget. Empirical determinations of the direct aerosol radiative forcing (DARF) by the smoke were used to corroborate simulations made using the Moderate Resolution Transmittance radiative transfer model, MODTRAN™ 5. DARF is defined as the change in net shortwave irradiance per unit of aerosol optical depth (AOD). DARF, varying with solar angle and surface type, was evaluated at the surface, at the top of the atmosphere (TOA), and within the intervening layers of the atmosphere. The TOA results are compared with fluxes derived from coincident satellite retrievals made using the Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) radiance data. Smoke tends to reduce the net shortwave irradiance at the surface while increasing it within layers in which it resides. Over the Arctic tundra during summer, a layer of smoke having AOD = 0.5 at 500 nm produces a diurnally averaged DARF of about -40 W/m² at the surface and -20 W/m² at TOA, while the layer itself tends to warm at a rate of ≈1 K/d¹. The tendency of smoke to cool the surface while heating the layer above may lead to increased atmospheric stability and suppress cloud formation. Radiative forcing at the top of the atmosphere is especially sensitive to small changes in surface albedo, evidenced in both the model results and satellite retrievals. TOA net shortwave flux decreases when smoke is present over dark surfaces and tends to increase if the underlying surface is bright. For example, at solar noon during midsummer at Barrow, a layer of smoke having AOD(500) = 0.5 will reduce the net shortwave flux at TOA by ≈30 W/m² over the ocean while at the same time increasing it by 20 W/m² over an adjacent area of melting sea ice. For smoke aerosol, the sensitivity of DARF to changing surface albedo (assuming a solar zenith angle of 50°) is about +15 W/m²/AOD for every increase in surface albedo of 0.10. Throughout the Arctic summer, surface and TOA cooling and a tendency toward warming in the intervening atmospheric layers are the dominant radiative impacts of boreal smoke over the ocean and tundra areas, but the radiative forcing at TOA is positive over regions covered by ice or snow. Enhanced differential cooling/heating of ocean, ice, and snow due to the presence of smoke in the atmosphere may affect regional circulation patterns by perturbing diabatic processes. Should the frequency and intensity of boreal fires increase in the future because of global warming, the more persistent presence of smoke in the atmosphere may be manifest as a negative feedback at the surface. In addition, there will likely be indirect radiative impacts of the smoke as it influences cloudiness, which in turn further modulates the Arctic radiation budget.