Quantifying the respective roles of aerosols and clouds in the strong brightening since the early 2000s over the Iberian Peninsula

The contribution of clouds and aerosols to the decadal variations of downward surface shortwave radiation (SSR) is a current controversial topic. This study proposes a method, which is based on surface-based SSR measurements, aerosol observations, and radiative transfer simulations (in cloud-free and cloud-and aerosol-free scenarios), to evaluate cloud-aerosol (CARE), cloud (CRE), and aerosol (ARE) radiative effects. This method is applied to quantify the role played by, separately, clouds and aerosols on the intense brightening of the SSR observed in the Iberian Peninsula. Clouds and Earth's Radiation Energy Budget System (CERES) and surface-based data exhibit an increase in SSR between 2003 and 2012, exceeding +10 Wm-2 over this period for some areas of the peninsula. The calculations are performed for three surface-based sites: Barcelona and Valladolid (Spain), and Évora (Portugal). Ranges in monthly values of CARE, CRE, and ARE are (-80,-20), (-60,-20), and (-30, 0), respectively (in Wm-2). The average trends for the analyzed period of CARE, CRE, and ARE are +7, +5, and +2 Wm-2 per decade, respectively. Overall, three fourths of the SSR trend is explained by clouds, while the other one fourth is related to aerosol changes. The SSR trends explained by the clouds and aerosol radiative effects are in line with the observed reductions in total cloud cover and aerosol load (both at the surface and in the whole atmospheric column). Furthermore, the CRE values are compared against CERES data showing good agreement between both data series, although some discrepancies are observed in their trends ​
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