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Aerosols and their effect on the radiative properties of clouds are one of the largest sources of uncertainty in calculations of the Earth's energy budget. Here the sensitivity of aerosol-cloud albedo effect forcing to 31 aerosol parameters is quantified. Sensitivities are compared over three periods; 1850–2008, 1978–2008, and 1998–2008. Despite declining global anthropogenic SO2 emissions during 1978–2008, a cancelation of regional positive and negative forcings leads to a near-zero global mean cloud albedo effect forcing. In contrast to existing negative estimates, our results suggest that the aerosol-cloud albedo effect was likely positive (0.006 to 0.028Wm−2) in the recent decade, making it harder to explain the temperature hiatus as a forced response. Proportional contributions to forcing variance from aerosol processes and natural and anthropogenic emissions are found to be period dependent. To better constrain forcing estimates, the processes that dominate uncertainty on the timescale of interest must be better understood.
Regayre, L . A., K. J. Pringle, B. B. B. Booth, L. A. L ee, G. W. Mann, J. Browse, M. T. Woodhouse, A. Rap, C. L . Reddington, & K. S. Carslaw (2015) Uncertainty in the magnitude of aerosol-cloud radiative forcing over recent decades, GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, 41(24):9040–9049.