Articles | Volume 14, issue 12
Research article
20 Jun 2014
Research article |  | 20 Jun 2014

The Pagami Creek smoke plume after long-range transport to the upper troposphere over Europe – aerosol properties and black carbon mixing state

F. Dahlkötter, M. Gysel, D. Sauer, A. Minikin, R. Baumann, P. Seifert, A. Ansmann, M. Fromm, C. Voigt, and B. Weinzierl

Abstract. During the CONCERT 2011 field experiment with the DLR research aircraft Falcon, an enhanced aerosol layer with particle linear depolarization ratios of 6–8% at 532 nm was observed at altitudes above 10 km over northeast Germany on 16 September 2011. Dispersion simulations with HYSPILT suggest that the elevated aerosol layer originated from the Pagami Creek forest fire in Minnesota, USA, which caused pyro-convective uplift of particles and gases. The 3–4 day-old smoke plume had high total refractory black carbon (rBC) mass concentrations of 0.03–0.35 μg m−3 at standard temperature and pressure (STP) with rBC mass equivalent diameter predominantly smaller than 130 nm. Assuming a core-shell particle structure, the BC cores exhibit very thick (median: 105–136 nm) BC-free coatings. A large fraction of the BC-containing particles disintegrated into a BC-free fragment and a BC fragment while passing through the laser beam of the Single Particle Soot Photometer (SP2). In this study, the disintegration is a result of very thick coatings around the BC cores. This is in contrast to a previous study in a forest-fire plume, where it was hypothesized to be a result of BC cores being attached to a BC-free particle. For the high-altitude forest-fire aerosol layer observed in this study, increased mass specific light-absorption cross sections of BC can be expected due to the very thick coatings around the BC cores, while this would not be the case for the attached-type morphology. We estimate the BC mass import from the Pagami Creek forest fire into the upper troposphere/lower stratosphere (UTLS) region (best estimate: 25 Mg rBC). A comparison to black carbon emission rates from aviation underlines the importance of pyro-convection on the BC load in the UTLS region. Our study provides detailed information on the microphysics and the mixing state of BC in the forest-fire aerosol layer in the upper troposphere that can be used to better understand and investigate the radiative impact of such upper tropospheric aerosol layers.

Final-revised paper