Related Research Areas
Carbon Cycle & Ecosystems, Water & Energy Cycles

Aerosols impact regional and global energy cycle, by directly perturbing the energy balance of the atmosphere-earth surface system, and by affecting the microphysics of cloud and rain formation. The responses of the regional water cycle to aerosol forcing are strongly dependent on the aerosol chemical and physical properties, concentration, composition and distribution (both horizontal and vertical), as well as the ambient atmospheric dynamical state. Generally, aerosols, such as sulfate, that reflect sunlight, cool the earth surface, increase stability, and thereby reduce convection, and rainfall locally. On the other hand, aerosols that absorb solar radiation, such as dust and black carbon, not only cool the surface, but also heat the atmosphere, and thus are more capable in producing dynamical feedback. A number of recent studies have identified the important role of absorbing aerosols (dust and black carbon) from long-range transport and local emission in spurring hydro-climate feedback processes in the Asian monsoon regions, resulting in strong modulation of the Asian monsoon rainfall (Lau et al 2009 and others). Biomass burning is on the rise over South Asia and Southeast Asia , due to both natural and anthropogenic activities. Depending on the types of vegetation, biomass burning may additionally contribute to the loading of atmospheric black carbon, enhancing the atmospheric heating processes. In northern India and Nepal/Himalayas, biomass burning may be an important factor in darkening the mountain snow packs, and Tibetan glaciers and contribute to accelerating the seasonal warming of the Tibetan Plateau, which in turn modifies the subsequent evolution of the South Asian monsoon. Biomass burning over Southeast Asia and IndoChina may be an important factor in the formation of the bright cloud and rain band spanning Southeast Asia and southern China in April-May associated with the pre-Meiyu frontal weather system. Energetic convective rain systems that often developed with the cloud band, bring heavy rain and flash flood to southeast Asia, and southern China may be related to the invigoration of deep convection by downwind transport of biomass burning aerosols from IndoChina. Here, we propose a highly interdisciplinary research project to investigate the possible impacts of aerosols from biomass burning on the weather and climate systems of the South and Southeast Asian monsoon regions. Six coordinated research tasks are proposed. Task 1-3 are observations task dealing respectively with 1) spatial and temporal distribution of biomass burning sources, characteristics and composition of biomass aerosols, particularly the emission of soot and black carbon; 2) use of satellite data to infer aerosol-cloud-precipitation interactions; and 3) use of in-situ monitoring and field campaign data to investigate properties of aerosols. Task 4-6 are modeling tasks, making use of results from the Task 1-3 to provide inputs for emission sources, plume height in defining the forcing functions, and validations for the models. The modeling tasks are focused respectively on 4) GCM modeling of biomass burning aerosol transport and impacts including both direct and indirect effects, and snow-albedo effects on South Asian and Southeast Asian monsoon; 5) High-resolution regional modeling of soot and black carbon emissions from biomass burning on “elevated heat pump” effects by deep convection over Himalayas complex terrain, and on aerosol-cloud-precipitation interactions for pre-Meiyu rainband over southern China; 6) GEOS5 experiments to study interactive effects of biomass burning aerosols on Asian monsoon climate and water cycle. We expect to deliver a comprehensive understanding of the characteristics of biomass burning emissions, and their impacts on the climate and water cycle of South Asian and Southeast Asia.

Project PI: William Lau/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Laboratory for Atmospheres Greenbelt, MD 20771 United States

Phone: (301) 421-1989

Fax: (301) 614-6888



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Started: Sep 29, 2010

Last Activity: Jan 04, 2011


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