Satellite Observations of Natural and Anthropogenic Aerosol Effects on Clouds and Climate
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- Kaufman, Y.J. Space Sci Rev (2006) 125: 139. doi:10.1007/s11214-006-9052-7
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Anthropogenic aerosols affect the climate system and the hydrological cycle. The net effect of aerosols is to cool the climate system, directly by reflecting sunlight to space, and indirectly by increasing the brightness and cover of clouds that in turn also reflect more sunlight to space. The uncertainty in the aerosol effect on climate is 5 times greater than that of the greenhouse gases. The reason for this is the short aerosol lifetime and chemical complexity, that makes it difficult to represent the global aerosol budget from surface or aircraft measurements. Satellites provide daily global information about the aerosol content, generating large statistics with excellent regional and global representation of the aerosol column concentration, and differentiating fine from coarse aerosol. Here we use observations performed with the MODIS instrument onboard the Terra and Aqua satellites to differentiate natural from anthropogenic aerosols, and to measure the aerosol effect on cloud properties and on the reflectivity of sunlight.