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  1. Abstract

    Aerosols can enhance terrestrial productivity through increased absorption of solar radiation by the shaded portion of the plant canopy—the diffuse radiation fertilization effect. Although this process can, in principle, alter surface evaporation due to the coupling between plant water loss and carbon uptake, with the potential to change the surface temperature, aerosol‐climate interactions have been traditionally viewed in light of the radiative effects within the atmosphere. Here, we develop a modeling framework that combines global atmosphere and land model simulations with a conceptual diagnostic tool to investigate these interactions from a surface energy budget perspective. Aerosols increase the terrestrial evaporative fraction, or the portion of net incoming energy consumed by evaporation, by over 4% globally and as much as ∼40% regionally. The main mechanism for this is the increase in energy allocation from sensible to latent heat due to global dimming (reduction in global shortwave radiation) and slightly augmented by diffuse radiation fertilization. In regions with moderately dense vegetation (leaf area index >2), the local surface cooling response to aerosols is dominated by this evaporative pathway, not the reduction in incident radiation. Diffuse radiation fertilization alone has a stronger impact on gross primary productivity (+2.18 Pg C y−1or +1.8%) than on land evaporation (+0.18 W m−2or +0.48%) and surface temperature (−0.01 K). Our results suggest that it is important for land surface models to distinguish between quantity (change in total magnitude) and quality (change in diffuse fraction) of radiative forcing for properly simulating surface climate.

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