Articles | Volume 14, issue 6
Research article
27 Mar 2014
Research article |  | 27 Mar 2014

Annual cycle of Antarctic baseline aerosol: controlled by photooxidation-limited aerosol formation

M. Fiebig, D. Hirdman, C. R. Lunder, J. A. Ogren, S. Solberg, A. Stohl, and R. L. Thompson

Abstract. This article investigates the annual cycle observed in the Antarctic baseline aerosol scattering coefficient, total particle number concentration, and particle number size distribution (PNSD), as measured at Troll Atmospheric Observatory. Mie theory shows that the annual cycles in microphysical and optical aerosol properties have a common cause. By comparison with observations at other Antarctic stations, it is shown that the annual cycle is not a local phenomenon, but common to central Antarctic baseline air masses. Observations of ground-level ozone at Troll as well as backward plume calculations for the air masses arriving at Troll demonstrate that the baseline air masses originate from the free troposphere and lower stratosphere region, and descend over the central Antarctic continent. The Antarctic summer PNSD is dominated by particles with diameters <100 nm recently formed from the gas-phase despite the absence of external sources of condensible gases. The total particle volume in Antarctic baseline aerosol is linearly correlated with the integral insolation the aerosol received on its transport pathway, and the photooxidative production of particle volume is mostly limited by photooxidative capacity, not availability of aerosol precursor gases. The photooxidative particle volume formation rate in central Antarctic baseline air is quantified to 207 ± 4 μm3/(MJ m). Further research is proposed to investigate the applicability of this number to other atmospheric reservoirs, and to use the observed annual cycle in Antarctic baseline aerosol properties as a benchmark for the representation of natural atmospheric aerosol processes in climate models.

Final-revised paper