Issues related to the retrieval of stratospheric-aerosol particle size information based on optical measurements

von Savigny, Christian; Hoffmann, Christoph G.

Stratospheric-sulfate aerosols play an important role in the physics and chemistry of the atmosphere. The radiative and chemical effects of stratospheric-sulfate aerosols depend critically on the aerosol particle size distribution and its variability. Despite extensive research spanning several decades, the scientific understanding of the particle size distribution of stratospheric aerosols is still incomplete. Particle size estimates (often represented by the median radius of an assumed monomodal log-normal distribution with a fixed width or by the effective radius) reported in different studies cover a wide range, even under background stratospheric conditions, and particle size estimates retrieved from satellite solar-occultation measurements in the optical spectral range show a tendency to be systematically larger than retrievals based on other optical methods. In this contribution we suggest a potential reason for these systematic differences. Differences between the actual aerosol particle size distribution and the size distribution function assumed for aerosol size retrievals may lead to systematic differences in retrieved aerosol size estimates. We demonstrate that these systematic differences may differ significantly for different measurement techniques, which is related to the different sensitivities of these measurement techniques to specific parts of the aerosol particle population. In particular, stratospheric-aerosol size retrievals based on solar-occultation observations may yield systematically larger particle size estimates (median or effective radii) compared to, e.g., lidar backscatter measurements. Aerosol concentration, on the other hand, may be systematically smaller in retrievals based on occultation measurements compared to lidar measurements. The results indicate that stratospheric-aerosol size retrievals based on occultation or lidar measurements have to be interpreted with caution, as long as the actual aerosol particle size distribution is not well known.

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von Savigny, Christian / Hoffmann, Christoph G.: Issues related to the retrieval of stratospheric-aerosol particle size information based on optical measurements. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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