The key role of warm rain parameterization in determining the aerosol indirect effect in a global climate model

Xianwen Jing, Kentaroh Suzuki, Takuro Michibata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Global climate models (GCMs) have been found to share the common too-frequent bias in the warm rain formation process. In this study, five different autoconversion schemes are incorporated into a single GCM, to systematically evaluate the warm rain formation processes in comparison with satellite observations and investigate their effects on the aerosol indirect effect (AIE). It is found that some schemes generate warm rain less efficiently under polluted conditions in the manner closer to satellite observations, while the others generate warm rain too frequently. Large differences in AIE are found among these schemes. It is remarkable that the schemes with more observation-like warm rain formation processes exhibit larger AIEs that far exceed the uncertainty range reported in IPCC AR5, to an extent that can cancel much of the warming trend in the past century, whereas schemes with too-frequent rain formations yield AIEs that are well bounded by the reported range. The power-law dependence of the autoconversion rate on the cloud droplet number concentration β is found to affect substantially the susceptibility of rain formation to aerosols: the more negative β is, the more difficult it is for rain to be triggered in polluted clouds, leading to larger AIE through substantial contributions from the wet scavenging feedback. The appropriate use of a droplet size threshold can mitigate the effect of a less negative β. The role of the warm rain formation process on AIE in this particular model has broad implications for others that share the too-frequent rain-formation bias.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4409-4430
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Aerosol indirect effect
  • Aerosol-cloud interaction
  • Atmosphere
  • Climate models
  • Cloud microphysics
  • Precipitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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