High Arctic aircraft measurements characterising black carbon vertical variability in spring and summer

Schulz, Hannes; Zanatta, Marco; Bozem, Heiko; Leaitch, W. Richard; Herber, Andreas B.; Burkart, Julia; Willis, Megan D.; Kunkel, Daniel; Hoor, Peter M.; Abbatt, Jonathan P. D.; Gerdes, Rüdiger

The vertical distribution of black carbon (BC) particles in the Arctic atmosphere is one of the key parameters controlling their radiative forcing and thus role in Arctic climate change. This work investigates the presence and properties of these light-absorbing aerosols over the High Canadian Arctic (inline-formula>70inline-formula N). Airborne campaigns were performed as part of the NETCARE project (Network on Climate and Aerosols: Addressing Key Uncertainties in Remote Canadian Environments) and provided insights into the variability of the vertical distributions of BC particles in summer 2014 and spring 2015. The observation periods covered evolutions of cyclonic disturbances at the polar front, which favoured the transport of air pollution into the High Canadian Arctic, as otherwise this boundary between the air masses largely impedes entrainment of pollution from lower latitudes. A total of 48 vertical profiles of refractory BC (rBC) mass concentration and particle size, extending from 0.1 to 5.5 km altitude were obtained with a Single-Particle Soot Photometer (SP2).

Generally, the rBC mass concentration decreased from spring to summer by a factor of 10. Such depletion was associated with a decrease in the mean rBC particle diameter, from approximately 200 to 130 nm at low altitude. Due to the very low number fraction, rBC particles did not substantially contribute to the total aerosol population in summer.

The analysis of profiles with potential temperature as vertical coordinate revealed characteristic variability patterns within specific levels of the cold and stably stratified, dome-like, atmosphere over the polar region. The associated history of transport trajectories into each of these levels showed that the variability was induced by changing rates and efficiencies of rBC import. Generally, the source areas affecting the polar dome extended southward with increasing potential temperature (i.e. altitude) level in the dome. While the lower dome was mostly only influenced by low-level transport from sources within the cold central and marginal Arctic, for the mid-dome and upper dome during spring it was found that a cold air outbreak over eastern Europe caused intensified northward transport of air from a corridor over western Russia to central Asia. This sector was affected by emissions from gas flaring, industrial activity and wildfires. The development of transport caused rBC concentrations in the second lowest level to gradually increase from 32 to 49 ng minline-formula−3. In the third level this caused the initially low rBC concentration to increase from inline-formula<15 to 150 ng minline-formula−3. A shift in rBC mass-mean diameter, from above 200 nm in the lower polar dome dominated by low-level transport to inline-formula<190 nm at higher levels, may indicate that rBC was affected by wet removal mechanisms preferential to larger particle diameters when lifting processes were involved during transport. The summer polar dome had limited exchange with the mid-latitudes. Air pollution was supplied from sources within the marginal Arctic as well as by long-range transport, but inpage2362 both cases rBC was largely depleted in absolute and relative concentrations. Near the surface, rBC concentrations were inline-formula<2 ng minline-formula−3, while concentrations increased to inline-formula<10 ng minline-formula−3 towards the upper boundary of the polar dome. The mass mean particle diameter of 132 nm was smaller than in spring; nonetheless the summer mean mass size distribution resembled the spring distribution from higher levels, with depletion of particles inline-formula>300 nm.

Our work provides vertical, spatial and seasonal information of rBC characteristics in the polar dome over the High Canadian Arctic, offering a more extensive dataset for evaluation of chemical transport models and for radiative forcing assessments than those obtained before by other Arctic aircraft campaigns.



Schulz, Hannes / Zanatta, Marco / Bozem, Heiko / et al: High Arctic aircraft measurements characterising black carbon vertical variability in spring and summer. 2019. Copernicus Publications.


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