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Deconstructing the Precipitation Susceptibility Construct: Improving Methodology for Aerosol-Cloud-Precipitation Studie

Abstract

It is generally thought that an increase in aerosol particles suppresses precipitation in
warm clouds. The nature and magnitude of this effect are highly uncertain owing to
numerous microphysical and macrophysical processes that influence clouds over a wide
range of spatial and temporal scales. This work addresses the need to improve the evidence for and quantification of aerosol effects on precipitation by using observational data. Previous work introduced the concept of precipitation susceptibility as a metric for changes in precipitation that result from aerosol perturbations. Motivated by the difficulty in obtaining statistically significant aerosol measurements in the vicinity of clouds, this
study explores breaking up the precipitation susceptibility construct into separate
components: an aerosol‐cloud interaction component and a cloud‐precipitation
component. These are used to quantify precipitation susceptibility, while also accounting for meteorological factors that could obfuscate the response of clouds to aerosol perturbations. The utility of this technique is demonstrated using a diverse set of tools, including data from NASA’s A‐Train constellation of satellites, aircraft measurements, and models of various complexities. Employing this method results in increased confidence in causal relationships between aerosol perturbations and precipitation.

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