Articles | Volume 13, issue 15
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 7511–7529, 2013
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 7511–7529, 2013

Research article 05 Aug 2013

Research article | 05 Aug 2013

Free troposphere as a major source of CCN for the equatorial pacific boundary layer: long-range transport and teleconnections

A. D. Clarke1,2, S. Freitag1, R. M. C. Simpson2, J. G. Hudson3, S. G. Howell2, V. L. Brekhovskikh2, T. Campos4, V. N. Kapustin2, and J. Zhou2,* A. D. Clarke et al.
  • 1Department of Meteorology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Hawaii, USA
  • 2Department of Oceanography, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Hawaii, USA
  • 3Desert Research Institute, Nevada System of Higher Education, Reno, Nevada, USA
  • 4National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA
  • *currently at: Alstom Power Group AB, Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract. Airborne aerosol measurements in the central equatorial Pacific during PASE (Pacific Atmospheric Sulfur Experiment) revealed that cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) activated in marine boundary layer (MBL) clouds were strongly influenced by entrainment from the free troposphere (FT). About 65% entered at sizes effective as CCN in MBL clouds, while ~25% entered the MBL too small to activate but subsequently grew via gas to particle conversion. The remaining ~10% were inferred to be sea salt aerosol.

FT aerosols at low carbon monoxide (CO) mixing ratios (< 63 ppbv) were mostly volatile at 360 °C with a number mode peak of around 30–40 nm dry diameter and tended to be associated with cloud outflow from distant (3000 km or more) deep convection. Higher CO concentrations were commonly associated with trajectories from South America and the Amazon region (ca. ~10 000 km away) and occurred in layers indicative of combustion sources (biomass burning season) partially scavenged by precipitation. These had number modes near 60–80 nm dry diameter with a large fraction of CCN.2 (those activated at 0.2% supersaturation and representative of MBL clouds) prior to entrainment into the MBL. Flight averaged concentrations of CCN.2 were similar for measurements near the surface, below the inversion and in the FT just above the inversion, confirming that subsidence and entrainment of FT aerosol strongly influenced MBL CCN.2. Concurrent flight-to-flight variations of CCN.2 at all altitudes below 3 km also imply MBL CCN.2 concentrations were in quasi-equilibrium with the FT over a 2–3 day timescale.

The observed FT transport over thousands of kilometers indicates teleconnections between MBL CCN and cloud-scavenged sources of both natural and/or residual combustion origin. Nonetheless, in spite of its importance, this source of CCN number is not well represented in most current models and is generally not detectable by satellite because of the low aerosol scattering in such layers as a result of cloud scavenging. In addition, our measurements confirm nucleation in the MBL was not evident during PASE and argue against a localized linear relation in the MBL between dimethyl sulfide (DMS) and CCN suggested by the CLAW hypothesis. However, when the FT is not impacted by long-range transport, sulfate aerosol derived from DMS pumped aloft in the ITCZ (Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone) can provide a source of CCN to the boundary layer via FT teleconnections involving more complex non-linear processes.

Final-revised paper