Progress Towards Identifying and Quantifying the Organic Ice Nucleating Particles in Soils and Aerosols

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Thomas Christopher James Hill1, Paul J DeMott1, Janine Fröhlich-Nowoisky2, Yutaka Tobo1,3, Kaitlyn J Suski1, Ezra JT Levin1, Sonia M Kreidenweis1 and Gary D Franc4, (1)Colorado State University, Department of Atmospheric Science, Fort Collins, CO, United States, (2)Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Multiphase Chemistry Department, Mainz, Germany, (3)NIPR National Institute of Polar Research, Tokyo, Japan, (4)University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY, United States
Soil and plant surfaces emit ice nucleating particles (INP) to the atmosphere, especially when disturbed by wind, harvesting, rain or fire. Organic (biogenic) INP are abundant in most soils and dominate the population that nucleate >-15°C. For example, the sandy topsoil of sagebrush shrubland, a widespread ecotype prone to wind erosion after fire, contains ~106 organic INP g-1 at -6°C. The relevance of organic INP may also extend to colder temperatures than previously thought: Particles of soil organic matter (SOM) have been shown to be more important than mineral particles for the ice nucleating ability of agricultural soil dusts to -34°C. While the abundance of ice nucleation active (INA) bacteria on plants has been established, the identity of the organic INP in and emitted by soils remains a 40-year-old mystery. The need to understand their production and release is highlighted by recent findings that INA bacteria (measured with qPCR) account for few, if any, of the warm-temperature organic INP that predominate in boundary layer aerosols and snow; organic INP lofted with soil dusts seem a likely source. The complexity of SOM hinders its investigation. It contains decomposing plant materials, a diverse microbial and microfaunal community, humus, and inert organic matter. All are biochemically complex and all may contain ice nucleating constituents, either by design or by chance. Indeed the smoothness of the INP temperature spectra of soils is indicative of numerous, overlapping distributions of INP. We report recent progress in identifying and quantifying the organic INP in soils and boundary layer aerosols representative of West Central U.S. ecosystems, and how their characteristics may affect their dispersal. Chemical, enzymatic and DNA-based tests were used to assess contributions of INP from plant tissues, INA bacteria, INA fungi, organic crystals, monolayers of aliphatic alcohols, carbohydrates, and humic substances, while heat- and peroxide-based tests were used to estimate total organic INP abundance.