Long-term trends in aerosol optical characteristics in the Po Valley, Italy
Abstract. Aerosol properties have been monitored by ground-based in situ and remote sensing measurements at the station for atmospheric research located in Ispra, on the edge of the Po Valley, for almost one decade. In situ measurements are performed according to Global Atmosphere Watch recommendations, and quality is assured through the participation in regular inter-laboratory comparisons. Sun-photometer data are produced by the Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET). Data show significant decreasing trends over the 2004–2010 period for a number of variables, including particulate matter (PM) mass concentration, aerosol scattering, backscattering and absorption coefficients, and aerosol optical thickness (AOT). In situ measurement data show no significant trends in the aerosol backscatter ratio, but they do show a significant decreasing trend of about −0.7 ± 0.3% yr−1 in the aerosol single scattering albedo (SSA) in the visible light range. Similar trends are observed in the SSA retrieved from sun-photometer measurements. Correlations appear between in situ PM mass concentration and aerosol scattering coefficient, on the one hand, and elemental carbon (EC) concentration and aerosol absorption coefficient, on the other hand. However, no increase in the EC / PM ratio was observed, which could have explained the decrease in SSA. The application of a simple approximation to calculate the direct radiative forcing by aerosols suggests a significant diminution in their cooling effect, mainly due to the decrease in AOT. Applying the methodology we present to those sites, where the necessary suite of measurements is available, would provide important information to inform future policies for air-quality enhancement and fast climate change mitigation.