Propagation of cloud base to higher levels during Covid-19-Lockdown

Sci Total Environ. 2021 Mar 10;759:144299. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.144299. Epub 2020 Dec 9.


Aerosol-cloud interactions and feedbacks play an important role in modulating cloud development, microphysical and optical properties thus enhancing or reducing precipitation over polluted/pristine regions. The lockdown enforced on account of Covid-19 pandemic is a unique opportunity to verify the influence of drastic reduction in aerosols on cloud development and its vertical distribution embedded in identical synoptic conditions. Cloud bases measured by ceilometer in Delhi, the capital of India, are observed to propagate from low level to higher levels as the lockdown progresses. It is explained in terms of trends in temporal variation of cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) and precursor gases to secondary hygroscopic aerosols. The large reduction (47%) in CCN estimated from aerosol extinction coefficient during the lockdown results in upward shift of cloud bases. Low clouds with bases located below 3 km are found to have reduced significantly from 63% (of total clouds distributed in the vertical) during pre-lockdown to 12% in lockdown period (less polluted). Cloud base height is found to have an inverse correlation with CCN (r = -0.64) and NO2/NH3 concentrations (r = -0.7). The role of meteorology and CCN in modulating the cloud vertical profiles is discussed in terms of anomalies of various controlling factors like lifting condensation level (LCL), precipitable water content (PWC) and mixing layer height (MLH).

Keywords: CCN; Ceilometer; Cloud profiles; Extinction coefficient; Trace gases.

MeSH terms

  • Atmosphere*
  • COVID-19*
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Humans
  • India
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2