Shuai Li1,2, Hua Zhang This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.2, Zhili Wang2,3, Yonghang Chen1

1 College of Environmental Science and Engineering Donghua University, Shanghai 201620, China
2 State Key Laboratory of Severe Weather, Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, Beijing 100081, China
3 Key Laboratory of Atmospheric Chemistry of CMA, Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, Beijing 100081, China

Received: October 11, 2022
Revised: March 6, 2023
Accepted: May 15, 2023

 Copyright The Author(s). This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are cited.

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Li, S., Zhang, H., Wang, Z., Chen, Y. (2023). Advances in the Research on Brown Carbon Aerosols: Its Concentrations, Radiative Forcing, and Effects on Climate. Aerosol Air Qual. Res.


  • Global distribution and estimation of brown carbon (BrC) concentration are analyzed.
  • Advance on radiative forcing of BrC and its effects on temperature and precipitation are discussed.
  • Including key factors influencing the radiative forcing of BrC simulated by the model.


Brown carbon (BrC) are important light-absorbing carbonaceous aerosols in the atmosphere, and it is of great significance to study the climate effects of BrC for regional or global climate change. This paper reviews recent advances in research on the radiative forcing of BrC, its effects on temperature and precipitation, and snow/ice albedo. Recent research suggests that: (1) Climate effects of aerosols can be represented more accurately when including BrC absorption in climate models; the regions with the highest global mean surface BrC concentrations estimated by models are mostly Southeast Asia and South America (biomass burning), East Asia and northeast India (biofuel burning), and Europe and North America (secondary sources); estimates of BrC radiative forcing are quite erratic, with a range of around 0.03–0.57 W m-2. (2) BrC heating lead to tropical expansion and a reduction in deep convective mass fluxes in the upper troposphere; cloud fraction and cloud type have a substantial impact on the heating rate estimates of BrC. The inclusion of BrC in the model results in a clear shift in the cloud fraction, liquid water path, precipitation, and surface flux. BrC heating decreases precipitation on a global scale, particularly in tropical regions with high convective and precipitation intensity, but different in some regions. (3) Uncertain optical properties of BrC, mixing ratio of radiation-absorbing aerosols in snow, snow grain size and snow coverage lead to higher uncertainties and lower confidence in the simulated distribution and radiative forcing of BrC in snow than BC. To reduce the uncertainty of its climate effects, future research should focus on improving model research, creating reliable BrC emission inventories, and taking into account the photobleaching and lense effects of BrC.

Keywords: Brown carbon, Climate effect, Radiative forcing, Temperature and precipitation, Snow/ice albedo effect

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