Connecting Aerosol Size Distributions at Three Arctic Stations
Abstract:Aerosols play an important role in Earth’s energy balance mainly through interactions with solar radiation and cloud processes. There is a distinct annual cycle of arctic aerosols, with greatest mass concentrations in the spring and lowest in summer due to effective wet removal processes - allowing for new particles formation events to take place. Little is known about the spatial extent of these events as no previous studies have directly compared and linked aerosol measurements from different arctic stations during the same times. Although the arctic stations are hardly affected by local pollution, it is normally assumed that their aerosol measurements are indicative of a rather large area. It is, however, not clear if that assumption holds all the time, and how large may that area be.
In this study, three different datasets of aerosol size distributions from Mt. Zeppelin in Svalbard, Station Nord in northern Greenland and Alert in the Canadian arctic, are analyzed for the measurement period of 2012-2013. All stations are 500 to 1000 km from each other, and the travel time from one station to the other is typically between 2 to 5 days. The meteorological parameters along the calculated trajectories are analyzed in order to estimate their role in the modification of the aerosol size distribution while the air is traveling from one field station to another. In addition, the exposure of the sampled air to open waters vs. frozen sea is assessed, due to the different fluxes of heat, moisture, gases and particles, that are expected to affect the aerosol size distribution.
The results show that the general characteristics of the aerosol size distributions and their annual variation are not very different in all three stations, with Alert and Station Nord being more similar. This is more pronounced when looking into the cases for which the trajectory calculations indicated that the air traveled from one of the latter stations to the other. The probable causes for the measurements at Mt. Zeppelin to stand out are the greater exposure to ice-free water all year round. In addition, the air sampled at Mt. Zeppelin is sometimes decoupled from the air at sea level. This results in a greater potential contribution of long-range transport to the aerosols that are measured there, compared to the other low-altitude stations.