Sea salt aerosol production via sublimating wind-blown saline snow particles over sea ice: parameterizations and relevant microphysical mechanisms
Blowing snow over sea ice has been proposed as a significant source of sea salt aerosol (SSA) (Yang et al., 2008). In this study, using snow salinity data and blowing snow and aerosol particle measurements collected in the Weddell Sea sea ice zone (SIZ) during a winter cruise, we perform a comprehensive model–data comparison with the aim of validating proposed parameterizations. Additionally, we investigate possible physical mechanisms involved in SSA production from blowing snow. A global chemical transport model, p-TOMCAT, is used to examine the model sensitivity to key parameters involved, namely blowing-snow size distribution, snow salinity, sublimation function, surface wind speed, relative humidity, air temperature and ratio of SSA formed per snow particle. As proposed in the parameterizations of Yang et al. (2008), the SSA mass flux is proportional to the bulk sublimation flux of blowing snow and snow salinity. To convert the bulk sublimation flux to SSA size distribution requires (1) sublimation function for snow particles, (2) blowing-snow size distribution, (3) snow salinity and (4) ratio of SSA formed per snow particle. The optimum model–cruise aerosol data agreement (in diameter range of 0.4–12 µm) indicates two possible microphysical processes that could be associated with SSA production from blowing snow. The first one assumes that one SSA is formed per snow particle after sublimation, and snow particle sublimation is controlled by the curvature effect or the so-called “air ventilation” effect. The second mechanism allows multiple SSAs to form per snow particle and assumes snow particle sublimation is controlled by the moisture gradient between the surface of the particle and the ambient air (moisture diffusion effect). With this latter mechanism the model reproduces the observations assuming that one snow particle produces ∼10 SSA during the sublimation process. Although both mechanisms generate very consistent results with respect to observed aerosol number densities, they correspond to completely different microphysical processes and show quite different SSA size spectra, mainly in ultra-fine and coarse size modes. However, due to the lack of relevant data, we could not, so far, conclude confidently which one is more realistic, highlighting the necessity of further investigation.