Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (Feb 2023)

Natural marine cloud brightening in the Southern Ocean

  • G. G. Mace,
  • S. Benson,
  • R. Humphries,
  • R. Humphries,
  • P. M. Gombert,
  • E. Sterner

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 23
pp. 1677 – 1685


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The number of cloud droplets per unit volume (Nd) is a fundamentally important property of marine boundary layer (MBL) liquid clouds that, at constant liquid water path, exerts considerable controls on albedo. Past work has shown that regional Nd has a direct correlation to marine primary productivity (PP) because of the role of seasonally varying, biogenically derived precursor gases in modulating secondary aerosol properties. These linkages are thought to be observable over the high-latitude oceans, where strong seasonal variability in aerosol and meteorology covary in mostly pristine environments. Here, we examine Nd variability derived from 5 years of MODIS Level 2-derived cloud properties in a broad region of the summer eastern Southern Ocean and adjacent marginal seas. We demonstrate latitudinal, longitudinal and temporal gradients in Nd that are strongly correlated with the passage of air masses over high-PP waters that are mostly concentrated along the Antarctic Shelf poleward of 60∘ S. We find that the albedo of MBL clouds in the latitudes south of 60∘ S is significantly higher than similar liquid water path (LWP) clouds north of this latitude.