The Aerosol Coarse Mode Initiative

Thursday, 18 December 2014
William P Arnott1, Narayan Adhikari1, Dambar Air1, Evgueni Kassianov2 and Jim Barnard1,2, (1)University of Nevada Reno, Reno, NV, United States, (2)Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, United States
Many areas of the world show an aerosol volume distribution with a significant coarse mode and sometimes a dominant coarse mode. The large coarse mode is usually due to dust, but sea salt aerosol can also play an important role. However, in many field campaigns, the coarse mode tends to be ignored, because it is difficult to measure. This lack of measurements leads directly to a concomitant “lack of analysis” of this mode. Because, coarse mode aerosols can have significant effects on radiative forcing, both in the shortwave and longwave spectrum, the coarse mode -- and these forcings -- should be accounted for in atmospheric models. Forcings based only on fine mode aerosols have the potential to be misleading.

In this paper we describe examples of large coarse modes that occur in areas of large aerosol loading (Mexico City, Barnard et al., 2010) as well as small loadings (Sacramento, CA; Kassianov et al., 2012; and Reno, NV). We then demonstrate that: (1) the coarse mode can contribute significantly to radiative forcing, relative to the fine mode, and (2) neglecting the coarse mode may result in poor comparisons between measurements and models. Next we describe -- in general terms -- the limitations of instrumentation to measure the coarse mode. Finally, we suggest a new initiative aimed at examining coarse mode aerosol generation mechanisms; transport and deposition; chemical composition; visible and thermal IR refractive indices; morphology; microphysical behavior when deposited on snow and ice; and specific instrumentation needs.

Barnard, J. C., J. D. Fast, G. Paredes-Miranda, W. P. Arnott, and A. Laskin, 2010: Technical Note: Evaluation of the WRF-Chem “Aerosol Chemical to Aerosol Optical Properties” Module using data from the MILAGRO campaign, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 10, 7325-7340.

Kassianov, E. I., M. S. Pekour, and J. C. Barnard, 2012: Aerosols in Central California: Unexpectedly large contribution of coarse mode to aerosol radiative forcing, Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L20806, doi:10.1029/2012GL053469.