loading page

Sea surface temperature control on the aerosol-induced brightness of marine clouds over the North Atlantic Ocean
  • Xiaoli Zhou,
  • Jianhao Zhang,
  • Graham Feingold
Xiaoli Zhou
NOAA Chemical Sciences Laboratory

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

Author Profile
Jianhao Zhang
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Author Profile
Graham Feingold
CSD, ESRL, NOAA, Boulder
Author Profile


Marine low clouds are one of the greatest sources of uncertainty for climate projection. We present an observed climatology of cloud albedo susceptibility to cloud droplet number concentration perturbations (S0) with changing sea surface temperature (SST) and estimated inversion strength for single-layer warm clouds over the North Atlantic Ocean, using eight years of satellite and reanalysis data. The key findings are that SST has a dominant control on S0 in the presence of co-varying synoptic conditions and aerosol perturbations. Regions conducive to aerosol-induced darkening (brightening) clouds occur with high (low) local SST. Higher SST significantly hastens cloud-top evaporation with increasing aerosol loading, by accelerating entrainment and facilitating entrainment drying. In a global-warming-like scenario, cloud darkening is expected, mainly as a result of increased entrainment drying via Clausius-Clapeyron scaling. Our results imply a more (less) positive low-cloud liquid water path feedback in a warmer climate with increasing (decreasing) aerosol loading.