Articles | Volume 10, issue 13
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 10, 5925–5942, 2010
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 10, 5925–5942, 2010

  02 Jul 2010

02 Jul 2010

Optical, physical and chemical characteristics of Australian continental aerosols: results from a field experiment

M. Radhi1, M. A. Box1, G. P. Box1, R. M. Mitchell2, D. D. Cohen3, E. Stelcer3, and M. D. Keywood2 M. Radhi et al.
  • 1School of Physics, University of New South Wales, Sydney NSW 2052, Australia
  • 2CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, a partnership between CSIRO and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Australia
  • 3Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Menai NSW 2234, Australia

Abstract. Mineral dust is one of the major components of the world's aerosol mix, having a number of impacts within the Earth system. However, the climate forcing impact of mineral dust is currently poorly constrained, with even its sign uncertain. As Australian deserts are more reddish than those in the Northern Hemisphere, it is important to better understand the physical, chemical and optical properties of this important aerosol. We have investigated the properties of Australian desert dust at a site in SW Queensland, which is strongly influenced by both dust and biomass burning aerosol.

Three years of ground-based monitoring of spectral optical thickness has provided a statistical picture of gross aerosol properties. The aerosol optical depth data showed a clear though moderate seasonal cycle with an annual mean of 0.06 ± 0.03. The Angstrom coefficient showed a stronger cycle, indicating the influence of the winter-spring burning season in Australia's north. AERONET size distributions showed a generally bimodal character, with the coarse mode assumed to be mineral dust, and the fine mode a mixture of fine dust, biomass burning and marine biogenic material.

In November 2006 we undertook a field campaign which collected 4 sets of size-resolved aerosol samples for laboratory analysis – ion beam analysis and ion chromatography. Ion beam analysis was used to determine the elemental composition of all filter samples, although elemental ratios were considered the most reliable output. Scatter plots showed that Fe, Al and Ti were well correlated with Si, and Co reasonably well correlated with Si, with the Fe/Al ratio somewhat higher than values reported from Northern Hemisphere sites (as expected). Scatter plots for Ca, Mn and K against Si showed clear evidence of a second population, which in some cases could be identified with a particular sample day or size fraction. These data may be used to attempt to build a signature of soil in this region of the Australian interior.

Ion chromatography was used to quantify water soluble ions for 2 of our sample sets, complementing the picture provided by ion beam analysis. The strong similarities between the MSA and SO42− size distributions argue strongly for a marine origin of much of the SO42−. The similarity of the Na+, Cl and Mg2+ size distributions also argue for a marine contribution. Further, we believe that both NO3 and NH4+ are the result of surface reactions with appropriate gases.

Final-revised paper