Articles | Volume 15, issue 23
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 15, 13665–13679, 2015
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-15-13665-2015
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 15, 13665–13679, 2015
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-15-13665-2015

Research article 10 Dec 2015

Research article | 10 Dec 2015

Contributions of dust and biomass burning to aerosols at a Colorado mountain-top site

A. G. Hallar1, R. Petersen1, E. Andrews2,3, J. Michalsky2,3, I. B. McCubbin1, and J. A. Ogren2 A. G. Hallar et al.
  • 1Storm Peak Laboratory, Desert Research Institute, Steamboat Springs, CO, USA
  • 2NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 3Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA

Abstract. Visible Multifilter Rotating Shadowband Radiometer (vis-MFRSR) data were collected at Storm Peak Laboratory (SPL), a mountain-top facility in northwest Colorado, from 1999 to 2011 and in 2013. From 2011 to 2014, in situ measurements of aerosol light scattering were also obtained. Using these data sets together, the seasonal impact of dust and biomass burning is considered for the western USA. Analysis indicates that the median contributions to spring and summer aerosol optical depth (AOD) from dust and biomass-burning aerosols across the data set are comparable. The mean AOD is slightly greater in the summer, with significantly more frequent and short-duration high AOD measurements due to biomass-burning episodes than in the spring. The Ångström exponent showed a significant increase in the summer for both the in situ and vis-MFRSR data, suggesting an increase in combustion aerosols. Spring dust events are less distinguishable in the in situ data than the column measurement, suggesting that a significant amount of dust may be found above the elevation of SPL, 3220 m a.s.l.

Twenty-two known case studies of intercontinental dust, regional dust, and biomass-burning events were investigated. These events were found to follow a similar pattern, in both aerosol loading and Ångström exponent, as the seasonal mean signal in both the vis-MFRSR and ground-based nephelometer. This data set highlights the wide-scale implications of a warmer, drier climate on visibility in the western USA.

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Short summary
The atmospheric seasonal impact of dust and biomass burning is considered for the western United States from 1999 to 2014. Median contributions to spring and summer aerosol optical depth (AOD) from dust and biomass-burning aerosols are comparable, with more frequent and short duration high AOD measurements due to biomass-burning episodes in summer than in spring. This data set highlights the wide scale implications of a warmer, drier climate on visibility in the western US.
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