An In Situ Method for Sizing Insoluble Residues in Precipitation

Friday, 19 December 2014
Jessica L Axson1, Jessie Creamean2, Amy L Bondy1, Katy Y Warner3 and Andrew P Ault1, (1)University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, United States, (2)NOAA, Boulder, CO, United States, (3)Division of Resources Management and Science, Yosemite National Park, El Portal, CA, United States
Aerosols acting as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) and ice nuclei (IN) play an important role in the climate effects of clouds. Wet deposition of these particles via rainout, washout, or cloud seeding is an important removal mechanism for aerosols in the atmosphere. Many of these particles, especially those that serve as IN, are insoluble and remain suspended after uptake within precipitating droplets/crystals as insoluble residues. While studies have measured the dissolved ions or mass of species within collected precipitation, no studies to date have quantified the number and size of insoluble residues. Herein, we demonstrate for the first time an in situ method for determining the number concentration, number size distribution, and surface area distribution of insoluble residues < 1 μm in diameter in samples of melted snow and rain. This work evaluates the use of nanoparticle tracking analysis (NTA), a new and novel technique for determining particle size distributions in a liquid medium, to determine in situ size distributions of insoluble residue particles in precipitation and evaluate this technique versus other analytical methods, including dynamic light scattering (DLS) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Number size distribution modes ranged from 80–150 nm and were strongly sample dependent. Surface area distribution modes ranged from 150–400 nm. Differences were observed between concentrations and size distributions for snow collected at different locations and elevations and between rain and melted snow. These differences can indicate changes in the insoluble residues that vary with ambient aerosol concentration, cloud microphysics, and meteorological dynamics. This method has great potential for improving our understanding of the properties of the particles nucleating droplets and crystals, the surface area available for reactions to occur, and the number of particles removed by scavenging. Additionally, the snow samples were further evaluated for chemical and physical properties using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Using techniques learned at Pacific Northwest National Lab’s (PNNL) Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL), we performed computer controlled SEM (CCSEM) with energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDX) on melted snow and rain samples.