Evidence for a Significant Source of Sea Salt Aerosol from Blowing Snow Above Sea Ice in the Southern Ocean
Thursday, 18 December 2014
Over most of the Earth, sea salt aerosol (SSA) derives from sea spray and bubble bursting at the open ocean surface. SSA as the major component of marine aerosol contributes directly to the radiative balance and can act as cloud condensation nuclei. SSA can also significantly impact the lifetime of methane, ozone or mercury through the photochemical release of reactive halogens. A recent model study suggested that the sublimation of saline blowing snow above sea ice can generate more SSA than is produced from a similar area of open ocean. A winter cruise through the Weddell Sea during June - August 2013 provided unique access to a potential SSA source region in the Antarctic sea ice zone to test this hypothesis.
Reported are first measurements of snow particle as well as aerosol concentrations, size distributions and chemical composition, during blowing snow events above sea ice. Snow particle spectra are found to be similar to those observed on the continent. Even though the salinity of surface and blowing snow was very low (<0.1 psu) a significant increase of aerosol in the SSA size range was observed during and after blowing snow events. This is consistent with model runs including a blowing snow parameterisation which suggest low sensitivity of SSA number densities to snow salinity within the observed range. First estimates of SSA flux from blowing snow using eddy correlation are significant, although falling below published values of the sea spray source function. We discuss the dependance of observed SSA production rates on ambient conditions as well as the significance to the Southern Ocean environment.