Quantifying the sources of atmospheric ice nuclei from carbonaceous combustion aerosol
Abstract:Ice nucleation on particles is a fundamental atmospheric process, which governs precipitation, cloud lifetimes, and climate. Despite being a basic atmospheric process, our current understanding of ice nucleation in the atmosphere is low. One reason for this low understanding is that ice nuclei concentrations are low (only ~1 in 105 particles in the free troposphere nucleate ice), making it challenging to identify both the composition and sources of ambient ice nuclei. Carbonaceous combustion aerosol produced from biomass and fossil fuel combustion are one potential source of these ice nuclei, as they contribute to over one-third of all aerosol in the North American free troposphere. Unfortunately, previous results from field measurements in-cloud, aircraft measurements, and laboratory studies are in conflict, with estimates of the impact of combustion aerosol ranging from no effect to rivaling the well-known atmospheric ice nuclei mineral dust. It is, however, becoming clear that aerosols from combustion processes are more complex than model particles, and their ice activity depends greatly on both fuel type and combustion conditions.
Given these dependencies, we propose that sampling from real-world biomass burning and fossil fuel sources would provide the most useful new information on the contribution of carbonaceous combustion aerosols to atmospheric ice nuclei particles. To determine the specific contribution of refractory black carbon (rBC) to ice nuclei concentrations, we have coupled the Single Particle Soot Photometer (SP2) to the Colorado State University Continuous Flow Diffusion Chamber (CFDC). The SP2 utilizes laser-induced incandescence to quantify rBC mass on a particle-by-particle basis; in doing so, it also selectively destroys rBC particles by heating them to their vaporization temperature. Thus, the SP2 can be used as a selective pre-filter for rBC into the CFDC. In this work, we will present recent results looking at contribution of diesel engine exhaust to ice nuclei concentrations. Sampling was done for both diesel and biodiesel on fresh emissions and emissions aged up to 18 days equivalent photochemical aging with a Potential Aerosol Mass chamber. Our results show that, for mixed-phase clouds, both fresh and aged (bio)diesel are not likely a significant source of ice nuclei.