Implementing a sectional scheme for early aerosol growth from new particle formation in the Norwegian Earth System Model v2: Comparison to observations and climate impacts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Aerosol-cloud interactions contribute to a large portion of the spread in estimates of climate forcing, climate sensitivity and future projections. An important part of this uncertainty is how much new particle formation (NPF) contributes to cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) and, furthermore, how this changes with changes in anthropogenic emissions. Incorporating NPF and early growth in Earth system models (ESMs) is, however, challenging due to uncertain parameters (e.g. participating vapours), structural issues (numerical description of growth from ∼ 1 to ∼ 100 nm) and the large scale of an ESM grid compared to the NPF scale. A common approach in ESMs is to represent the particle size distribution by a certain number of log-normal modes. Sectional schemes, on the other hand, in which the size distribution is represented by bins, are considered closer to first principles because they do not make an a priori assumption about the size distribution. In order to improve the representation of early growth, we have implemented a sectional scheme for the smallest particles (5-39.6 nm diameter) in the Norwegian Earth System Model (NorESM), feeding particles into the original aerosol scheme. This is, to our knowledge, the first time such an approach has been tried. We find that including the sectional scheme for early growth improves the aerosol number concentration in the model when comparing against observations, particularly in the 50-100 nm diameter range. Furthermore, we find that the model with the sectional scheme produces much fewer particles than the original scheme in polluted regions, while it produces more in remote regions and the free troposphere, indicating a potential impact on the estimated aerosol forcing. Finally, we analyse the effect on cloud-aerosol interactions and find that the effect of changes in NPF efficiency on clouds is highly heterogeneous in space. While in remote regions, more efficient NPF leads to higher cloud droplet number concentration (CDNC), in polluted regions the opposite is in fact the case.


External organisations
  • University of Oslo
  • University of Helsinki
  • Finnish Meteorological Institute
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3335-3359
Number of pages25
JournalGeoscientific Model Development
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Jun 4
Publication categoryResearch