Unmasking the effects of aerosols on greenhouse warming over Europe

Paul Glantz*, Olusegun Fawole, Johan Strom, Martin Wild, Kevin Noone

*Corresponding author for this work

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Aerosol optical thickness (AOT) has decreased substantially in Europe in the summer half year (April–September) since 1980, with almost a 50% reduction in Central and Eastern Europe, according to Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications, Version 2 (MERRA-2) reanalysis. At the same time, strong positive trends in ERA5 reanalysis surface solar radiation downward for all-sky and clear-sky conditions (SSRD and SSRDc, respectively) and temperature at 2 m are found for Europe in summer during the period 1979–2020. The GEBA observations show as well strong increases in SSRD during the latest four decades. Estimations of changes in SSRDc, using the Santa Barbara DISORT Atmospheric Radiative Transfer (SBDART) model, show similarly strong increases when fed by MERRA-2 AOT. The estimates of warming in this study, caused by increases in SSRD and SSRDc, are based on energy budget approximations and the Stefan Boltzmann law. The increases in near surface temperature, estimated both for clear-sky and all-sky conditions, are up to about 1°C for Central and Eastern Europe. The total warming over large parts of this region for clear-sky conditions is however nearly double the global mean temperature increase of 1.1°C, while somewhat less for all-sky conditions. The effects of aerosols on warming over the southerly Iberian Peninsula are weaker compared to countries further north. The rapid total warming over the Iberian Peninsula is probably caused by greenhouse warming, drier surface conditions, and to some degree decline in aerosols. Reduced cloud cover is found for large parts of Europe in summer during the latest four decades.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2021JD035889
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2022


  • unmasking aerosol effect
  • greenhouse warming
  • reduced cloud cover
  • surface drying
  • brightening
  • reduced direct aerosol effect

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