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  1. Abstract Using multiple independent satellite and reanalysis datasets, we compare relationships between mesoscale convective system (MCS) precipitation intensity P max , environmental moisture, large-scale vertical velocity, and system radius among tropical continental and oceanic regions. A sharp, nonlinear relationship between column water vapor and P max emerges, consistent with nonlinear increases in estimated plume buoyancy. MCS P max increases sharply with increasing boundary layer and lower free tropospheric (LFT) moisture, with the highest P max values originating from MCSs in environments exhibiting a peak in LFT moisture near 750 hPa. MCS P max exhibits strikingly similar behavior as a function of water vapor among tropical land and ocean regions. Yet, while the moisture– P max relationship depends strongly on mean tropospheric temperature, it does not depend on sea surface temperature over ocean or surface air temperature over land. Other P max -dependent factors include system radius, the number of convective cores, and the large-scale vertical velocity. Larger systems typically contain wider convective cores and higher P max , consistent with increased protection from dilution due to dry air entrainment and reduced reevaporation of precipitation. In addition, stronger large-scale ascent generally supports greater precipitation production. Last, temporal lead–lag analysis suggests thatmore »anomalous moisture in the lower–middle troposphere favors convective organization over most regions. Overall, these statistics provide a physical basis for understanding environmental factors controlling heavy precipitation events in the tropics, providing metrics for model diagnosis and guiding physical intuition regarding expected changes to precipitation extremes with anthropogenic warming.« less
  2. Abstract

    Simulations of tropical atmospheric circulation response to surface warming vary substantially across models, causing large uncertainties in projections of regional precipitation change. Understanding the physical processes that drive the model spread in tropical circulation changes is critically needed. Here we employ the basic mass balance and energetic constraints on tropical circulation to identify the dominant factors that determine multidecadal circulation strength and area changes in climate models. We show that the models produce a robust weakening of descent rate under warming regardless of surface warming patterns; however, ascent rate change exhibits inter-model spread twice as large as descent rate because of diverse model responses in the radiative effects of clouds, water vapor, and aerosols. As ascent area change is dictated by the disparate descent and ascent rate changes due to the mass budget and the inter-model spread in descent rate change is small, the model spread in ascent area change is dominated by that of ascent rate change, resulting in a strong anti-correlation of –0.85 between the fractional changes of ascent strength and area across 77 climate model simulations. This anti-correlation leads to a corresponding inverse relationship between the rates of precipitation intensifying and narrowing of the inter-tropical convergencemore »zone (ITCZ), suggesting tropical ascent area change can be potentially used to constrain the ITCZ precipitation change. Longwave cloud radiative effect at the top-of-atmosphere (TOA) in the convective region is identified to be a major source of uncertainties for tropical ascent rate change and thus for regional precipitation change.

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  3. Abstract. The interactions between aerosols and ice clouds represent one of the largest uncertainties in global radiative forcing from pre-industrial time to the present. In particular, the impact of aerosols on ice crystal effective radius (Rei), which is a key parameter determining ice clouds' net radiative effect, is highly uncertain due to limited and conflicting observational evidence. Here we investigate the effects of aerosols on Rei under different meteorological conditions using 9-year satellite observations. We find that the responses of Rei to aerosol loadings are modulated by water vapor amount in conjunction with several other meteorological parameters. While there is a significant negative correlation between Rei and aerosol loading in moist conditions, consistent with the "Twomey effect" for liquid clouds, a strong positive correlation between the two occurs in dry conditions. Simulations based on a cloud parcel model suggest that water vapor modulates the relative importance of different ice nucleation modes, leading to the opposite aerosol impacts between moist and dry conditions. When ice clouds are decomposed into those generated from deep convection and formed in situ, the water vapor modulation remains in effect for both ice cloud types, although the sensitivities of Rei to aerosols differ noticeably between them duemore »to distinct formation mechanisms. The water vapor modulation can largely explain the difference in the responses of Rei to aerosol loadings in various seasons. A proper representation of the water vapor modulation is essential for an accurate estimate of aerosol–cloud radiative forcing produced by ice clouds.

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  4. Abstract. The climatic and health effects of aerosols are strongly dependent on the intra-annual variations in their loading and properties. While the seasonal variations of regional aerosol optical depth (AOD) have been extensively studied, understanding the temporal variations in aerosol vertical distribution and particle types is also important for an accurate estimate of aerosol climatic effects. In this paper, we combine the observations from four satellite-borne sensors and several ground-based networks to investigate the seasonal variations of aerosol column loading, vertical distribution, and particle types over three populous regions: the Eastern United States (EUS), Western Europe (WEU), and Eastern and Central China (ECC). In all three regions, column AOD, as well as AOD at heights above 800m, peaks in summer/spring, probably due to accelerated formation of secondary aerosols and hygroscopic growth. In contrast, AOD below 800m peaks in winter over WEU and ECC regions because more aerosols are confined to lower heights due to the weaker vertical mixing. In the EUS region, AOD below 800m shows two maximums, one in summer and the other in winter. The temporal trends in low-level AOD are consistent with those in surface fine particle (PM2.5) concentrations. AOD due to fine particlesmore »( < 0.7µm diameter) is much larger in spring/summer than in winter over all three regions. However, the coarse mode AOD ( > 1.4µm diameter), generally shows small variability, except that a peak occurs in spring in the ECC region due to the prevalence of airborne dust during this season. When aerosols are classified according to sources, the dominant type is associated with anthropogenic air pollution, which has a similar seasonal pattern as total AOD. Dust and sea-spray aerosols in the WEU region peak in summer and winter, respectively, but do not show an obvious seasonal pattern in the EUS region. Smoke aerosols, as well as absorbing aerosols, present an obvious unimodal distribution with a maximum occurring in summer over the EUS and WEU regions, whereas they follow a bimodal distribution with peaks in August and March (due to crop residue burning) over the ECC region.

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