Articles | Volume 12, issue 15
Research article
01 Aug 2012
Research article |  | 01 Aug 2012

The scavenging processes controlling the seasonal cycle in Arctic sulphate and black carbon aerosol

J. Browse, K. S. Carslaw, S. R. Arnold, K. Pringle, and O. Boucher

Abstract. The seasonal cycle in Arctic aerosol is typified by high concentrations of large aged anthropogenic particles transported from lower latitudes in the late Arctic winter and early spring followed by a sharp transition to low concentrations of locally sourced smaller particles in the summer. However, multi-model assessments show that many models fail to simulate a realistic cycle. Here, we use a global aerosol microphysics model (GLOMAP) and surface-level aerosol observations to understand how wet scavenging processes control the seasonal variation in Arctic black carbon (BC) and sulphate aerosol. We show that the transition from high wintertime concentrations to low concentrations in the summer is controlled by the transition from ice-phase cloud scavenging to the much more efficient warm cloud scavenging in the late spring troposphere. This seasonal cycle is amplified further by the appearance of warm drizzling cloud in the late spring and summer boundary layer. Implementing these processes in GLOMAP greatly improves the agreement between the model and observations at the three Arctic ground-stations Alert, Barrow and Zeppelin Mountain on Svalbard. The SO4 model-observation correlation coefficient (R) increases from: −0.33 to 0.71 at Alert (82.5° N), from −0.16 to 0.70 at Point Barrow (71.0° N) and from −0.42 to 0.40 at Zeppelin Mountain (78° N). The BC model-observation correlation coefficient increases from −0.68 to 0.72 at Alert and from −0.42 to 0.44 at Barrow. Observations at three marginal Arctic sites (Janiskoski, Oulanka and Karasjok) indicate a far weaker aerosol seasonal cycle, which we show is consistent with the much smaller seasonal change in the frequency of ice clouds compared to higher latitude sites. Our results suggest that the seasonal cycle in Arctic aerosol is driven by temperature-dependent scavenging processes that may be susceptible to modification in a future climate.

Final-revised paper