Articles | Volume 15, issue 9
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 15, 4983–4996, 2015

Special issue: Integrated Land Ecosystem-Atmosphere Processes Study (iLEAPS)...

Atmos. Chem. Phys., 15, 4983–4996, 2015

Research article 04 May 2015

Research article | 04 May 2015

Characterization of satellite-based proxies for estimating nucleation mode particles over South Africa

A.-M. Sundström1, A. Nikandrova1, K. Atlaskina1, T. Nieminen1, V. Vakkari1,2, L. Laakso2,3, J. P. Beukes3, A. Arola4, P. G. van Zyl3, M. Josipovic3, A. D. Venter3, K. Jaars3, J. J. Pienaar3, S. Piketh3, A. Wiedensohler5, E. K. Chiloane3,6, G. de Leeuw2, and M. Kulmala1 A.-M. Sundström et al.
  • 1Department of Physics, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  • 2Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland
  • 3Unit for Environmental Science and Management, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
  • 4Finnish Meteorological Institute, Kuopio, Finland
  • 5Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research, Leipzig, Germany
  • 6Eskom Holdigns SOC Ltd, Sustainability Division, South Africa

Abstract. Proxies for estimating nucleation mode number concentrations and further simplification for their use with satellite data have been presented in Kulmala et al. (2011). In this paper we discuss the underlying assumptions for these simplifications and evaluate the resulting proxies over an area in South Africa based on a comparison with a suite of ground-based measurements available from four different stations. The proxies are formulated in terms of sources (concentrations of precursor gases (NO2 and SO2) and UVB radiation intensity near the surface) and a sink term related to removal of the precursor gases due to condensation on pre-existing aerosols. A-Train satellite data are used as input to compute proxies. Both the input data and the resulting proxies are compared with those obtained from ground-based measurements. In particular, a detailed study is presented on the substitution of the local condensation sink (CS) with satellite aerosol optical depth (AOD), which is a column-integrated parameter. One of the main factors affecting the disagreement between CS and AOD is the presence of elevated aerosol layers. Overall, the correlation between proxies calculated from the in situ data and observed nucleation mode particle number concentrations (Nnuc) remained low. At the time of the satellite overpass (13:00–14:00 LT) the highest correlation is observed for SO2/CS (R2 = 0.2). However, when the proxies are calculated using satellite data, only NO2/AOD showed some correlation with Nnuc (R2 = 0.2). This can be explained by the relatively high uncertainties related especially to the satellite SO2 columns and by the positive correlation that is observed between the ground-based SO2 and NO2 concentrations. In fact, results show that the satellite NO2 columns compare better with in situ SO2 concentration than the satellite SO2 column. Despite the high uncertainties related to the proxies calculated using satellite data, the proxies calculated from the in situ data did not better predict Nnuc. Hence, overall improvements in the formulation of the proxies are needed.

Final-revised paper