Articles | Volume 11, issue 20
Research article
27 Oct 2011
Research article |  | 27 Oct 2011

Seasonal differences in the vertical profiles of aerosol optical properties over rural Oklahoma

E. Andrews, P. J. Sheridan, and J. A. Ogren

Abstract. A small airplane made 597 aerosol optical property (light absorption and light scattering) vertical profile measurements over a rural Oklahoma site between March 2000 and December 2007. The aerosol profiles obtained during these 8 yr of measurements suggest significant seasonal differences in aerosol loading (scattering and absorption). The highest amounts of scattering and absorbing aerosol are observed during the summer and the lowest loading occurs during the winter. The relative contribution of aerosol absorption is highest in the winter (i.e., single scattering albedo is lowest in winter), particularly aloft. Aerosol absorption generally decreased with altitude below ~1.5 km and then was relatively constant or decreased more gradually above that. Aerosol scattering decreased sharply with altitude below ~1.5 km but, unlike absorption, also decreased at higher altitudes, albeit less sharply. Scattering Ångström exponents suggest that the aerosol was dominated by sub-micron aerosol during the summer at all altitudes, but that larger particles were present, especially in the spring and winter above 1 km. The seasonal variability observed for aerosol loading is consistent with AERONET aerosol optical depth (AOD) although the AOD values calculated from in situ adjusted to ambient conditions and matching wavelengths are up to a factor of two lower than AERONET AOD values depending on season. The column averaged single scattering albedo derived from in situ airplane measurements are similar in value to the AERONET single scattering albedo inversion product but the seasonal patterns are different – possibly a consequence of the strict constraints on obtaining single scattering albedo from AERONET data. A comparison of extinction Ångström exponent and asymmetry parameter from the airplane and AERONET platforms suggests similar seasonal variability with smaller particles observed in the summer and fall and larger particles observed in spring and winter. The observed seasonal cycle of aerosol loading corresponds with changes in air mass back trajectories: the aerosol scattering was higher when transport was from polluted areas (e.g., the Gulf Coast) and lower when the air came from cleaner regions and/or the upper atmosphere.

Final-revised paper