Relating Aerosol Mass and Optical Depth in the Summertime Continental Boundary Layer
Abstract:Aerosol optical depth (AOD), the column-integrated ambient aerosol light extinction, is determined from satellite and ground-based remote sensing measurements. AOD is the parameter most often used to validate earth system model simulations of aerosol mass. Relating aerosol mass to AOD, however, is problematic due to issues including aerosol water uptake as a function of relative humidity (RH) and the complicated relationship between aerosol physicochemical properties and light extinction. Measurements of aerosol microphysical, chemical, and optical properties help to constrain the relationship between aerosol mass and optical depth because aerosol extinction at ambient RH is a function of the abundance, composition and size distribution of the aerosol.
We use vertical profiles of humidity and dry aerosol extinction observed in the southeastern United States (U.S.) to examine the relationship between submicron aerosol mass concentration and extinction at ambient RH. We show that the κ-Köhler parameterization directly, and without additional Mie calculations, describes the change in extinction with varying RH as a function of composition for both aged aerosols typical of the polluted summertime continental boundary layer and the biomass burning aerosols we encountered. We calculate how AOD and the direct radiative effect in the eastern U.S. have likely changed due to trends in aerosol composition in recent decades. We also examine the sensitivity of AOD to the RH profile and to aerosol composition, size distribution and abundance.