Climatology of aerosol optical properties and black carbon mass absorption cross section at a remote high-altitude site in the western Mediterranean Basin
Abstract. Aerosol light scattering (σsp), backscattering (σbsp) and absorption (σap) were measured at Montsec (MSC; 42°3' N, 0°44' E, 1570 m a.s.l.), a remote high-altitude site in the western Mediterranean Basin. Mean (±SD) σsp, σbsp and σap were 18.9 ± 20.8, 2.6 ± 2.8 and 1.5 ± 1.4 Mm−1, respectively at 635 nm during the period under study (June 2011–June 2013). Mean values of single-scattering albedo (SSA, 635 nm), the scattering Ångström exponent (SAE, 450–635 nm), backscatter-to-scatter ratio (B / S, 635 nm), asymmetry parameter (g, 635 nm), black carbon mass absorption cross section (MAC, 637 nm) and PM2.5 mass scattering cross section (MSCS, 635 nm) were 0.92 ± 0.03, 1.56 ± 0.88, 0.16 ± 0.09, 0.53 ± 0.16, 10.9 ± 3.5 m2 g−1 and 2.5 ± 1.3 m2 g−1, respectively. The scattering measurements performed at MSC were in the medium/upper range of values reported by Andrews et al. (2011) for other mountaintop sites in Europe due to the frequent regional recirculation scenarios (SREG) and Saharan dust episodes (NAF) occurring mostly in spring/summer and causing the presence of polluted layers at the MSC altitude. However, the development of upslope winds and the possible presence of planetary boundary layer air at MSC altitude in summer may also have contributed to the high scattering observed. Under these summer conditions no clear diurnal cycles were observed for the measured extensive aerosol optical properties (σsp, σbsp and σap). Conversely, low σsp and σap at MSC were measured during Atlantic advections (AA) and winter regional anticyclonic episodes (WREG) typically observed during the cold season in the western Mediterranean. Therefore, a season-dependent decrease in the magnitude of aerosol extensive properties was observed when MSC was in the free troposphere, with the highest free-troposphere vs. all-data difference observed in winter and the lowest in spring/summer. The location of MSC station allowed for a reliable characterization of aerosols as a function of the main synoptic meteorological patterns. The SAE was the lowest during NAF and showed an inverse correlation with the outbreak intensity, indicating a progressive shift toward larger particles. Moreover, the strength of NAF episodes in the region led to a slope of the scattering vs. absorption relationship among the lowest reported for other mountaintop sites worldwide, indicating that MSC was dominated by dust aerosols at high aerosol loading. As a consequence, SSA showed a nearly monotonic increase with increasing particle concentration and scattering. The SAE was the highest during SREG, indicating the presence of polluted layers dominated by smaller particles. Correspondingly, the asymmetry parameter was lower under SREG compared with NAF. The MAC and MSCS were significantly higher during NAF and SREG compared to AA and WREG, indicating an increase of absorption and scattering efficiencies associated with the summer polluted scenarios. The optical measurements performed at the MSC remote site were compared with those simultaneously performed at a regional background station in the western Mediterranean Basin located at around 700 m a.s.l. upstream of the MSC station.