Is There a Common Correction for Biases in Historic Filter-Based Aerosol Absorption Measurements?

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Allison C McComiskey1, Anne Jefferson1, Manvendra Krishna Dubey2, Allison C Aiken2, Jerome D Fast3, Connor Joseph Flynn4 and Evgueni Kassianov4, (1)University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO, United States, (2)Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM, United States, (3)Pacific Northwest Natl Lab, Richland, WA, United States, (4)PNNL, Richland, VA, United States
Improved characterization of aerosol absorption is a pressing need for improving estimates of climate forcing by aerosols. Measurements of aerosol absorption are difficult to make with the accuracy and precision demanded by climate science. While several different approaches have been employed and new techniques have emerged, none can yet be considered a true ‘gold standard’. Instruments that use filter-based methods have been the most widely used and are the basis of historic records. However, several studies using direct photoacoustic techniques have shown that filter-based measurements can be biased relative to these direct measurements. It has been demonstrated that this bias depends strongly on aerosol chemical composition, specifically concentration of organic mass. The wealth of information in the extensive set of historical filter-based data demands that this bias be diagnosed and corrected. A correction is critical for proper evaluation and development of chemical transport models, improved retrievals from remote sensing measurements, and integrating aerosol absorption surface and sub-orbital in situ measurements with knowledge gained from these other approaches.

We have performed an intercomparison of absorption coefficients from a photoacoustic and two filter-based instruments with co-located organic mass concentrations from continuous, half-hourly averaged measurements over six months at a remote, continental site in the US (ARM SGP). The results show a bias in the filter-based measurements with organic concentration that is consistent with previous studies. Previous results come from controlled lab studies or field campaigns where absorption coefficients and organic concentrations are high and may represent aerosol close to the source. The current study is important in that these quantities are much lower and the aerosol likely more aged, representing a larger portion of the global conditions, yet shows a similar bias. This site provides other measures of aerosol properties that are used to evaluate the results and provide an estimate of the error in radiative forcing that this bias would produce if indeed it were common across various aerosol regimes.