Articles | Volume 13, issue 7
Research article
02 Apr 2013
Research article |  | 02 Apr 2013

Arctic aerosol life cycle: linking aerosol size distributions observed between 2000 and 2010 with air mass transport and precipitation at Zeppelin station, Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard

P. Tunved, J. Ström, and R. Krejci

Abstract. In this study we present a qualitative and quantitative assessment of more than 10 yr of aerosol number size distribution data observed in the Arctic environment (Mt. Zeppelin (78°56' N, 11°53' E, 474 m a.s.l.), Ny Ålesund, Svalbard). We provide statistics on both seasonal and diurnal characteristics of the aerosol observations and conclude that the Arctic aerosol number size distribution and related parameters such as integral mass and surface area exhibit a very pronounced seasonal variation. This seasonal variation seems to be controlled by both dominating source as well as meteorological conditions. Three distinctly different periods can be identified during the Arctic year: the haze period characterized by a dominating accumulation mode aerosol (March–May), followed by the sunlit summer period with low abundance of accumulation mode particles but high concentration of small particles which are likely to be recently and locally formed (June–August). The rest of the year is characterized by a comparably low concentration of accumulation mode particles and negligible abundance of ultrafine particles (September–February). A minimum in aerosol mass and number concentration is usually observed during September/October.

We further show that the transition between the different regimes is fast, suggesting rapid change in the conditions defining their appearance. A source climatology based on trajectory analysis is provided, and it is shown that there is a strong seasonality of dominating source areas, with Eurasia dominating during the Autumn–Winter period and dominance of North Atlantic air during the summer months. We also show that new-particle formation events are rather common phenomena in the Arctic during summer, and this is the result of photochemical production of nucleating/condensing species in combination with low condensation sink. It is also suggested that wet removal may play a key role in defining the Arctic aerosol year, via the removal of accumulation mode size particles, which in turn have a pivotal role in facilitating the conditions favorable for new-particle formation events. In summary the aerosol Arctic year seems to be at least qualitatively predictable based on the knowledge of seasonality of transport paths and associated source areas, meteorological conditions and removal processes.

Final-revised paper