Understanding sources of uncertainty in aerosol direct radiative forcing (DRF), the difference in a given radiative flux component with and without aerosol, is essential to quantifying changes in EarthÕs radiation budget. We examine the uncertainty in DRF due to measurement uncertainty in the quantities on which it depends: aerosol optical depth, single scattering albedo, asymmetry parameter, solar geometry, and surface albedo. Direct radiative forcing at the top of the atmosphere and at the surface as well as sensitivities, the changes in DRF in response to unit changes in individual aerosol or surface properties, are calculated at three locations representing distinct aerosol types and radiative environments. The uncertainty in DRF associated with a given property is computed as the product of the sensitivity and typical measurement uncertainty in the respective aerosol or surface property. Sensitivity and uncertainty values permit estimation of total uncertainty in calculated DRF and identification of properties that most limit accuracy in estimating forcing. Total uncertainties in modeled local diurnally averaged forcing range from 0.2 to 1.3 W m-2 (42 to 20%) depending on location (from tropical to polar sites), solar zenith angle, surface reflectance, aerosol type, and aerosol optical depth. The largest contributor to total uncertainty in DRF is usually single scattering albedo; however decreasing measurement uncertainties for any property would increase accuracy in DRF. Comparison of two radiative transfer models suggests the contribution of modeling error is small compared to the total uncertainty although comparable to uncertainty arising from some individual properties.
This page was last updated 2007-12-27.
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