Articles | Volume 15, issue 12
Research article
25 Jun 2015
Research article |  | 25 Jun 2015

Perturbations of the optical properties of mineral dust particles by mixing with black carbon: a numerical simulation study

B. V. Scarnato, S. China, K. Nielsen, and C. Mazzoleni

Abstract. Field observations show that individual aerosol particles are a complex mixture of a wide variety of species, reflecting different sources and physico-chemical transformations. The impacts of individual aerosol morphology and mixing characteristics on the Earth system are not yet fully understood. Here we present a sensitivity study on climate-relevant aerosols optical properties to various approximations. Based on aerosol samples collected in various geographical locations, we have observationally constrained size, morphology and mixing, and accordingly simulated, using the discrete dipole approximation model (DDSCAT), optical properties of three aerosols types: (1) bare black carbon (BC) aggregates, (2) bare mineral dust, and (3) an internal mixture of a BC aggregate laying on top of a mineral dust particle, also referred to as polluted dust.

DDSCAT predicts optical properties and their spectral dependence consistently with observations for all the studied cases. Predicted values of mass absorption, scattering and extinction coefficients (MAC, MSC, MEC) for bare BC show a weak dependence on the BC aggregate size, while the asymmetry parameter (g) shows the opposite behavior. The simulated optical properties of bare mineral dust present a large variability depending on the modeled dust shape, confirming the limited range of applicability of spheroids over different types and size of mineral dust aerosols, in agreement with previous modeling studies. The polluted dust cases show a strong decrease in MAC values with the increase in dust particle size (for the same BC size) and an increase of the single scattering albedo (SSA). Furthermore, particles with a radius between 180 and 300 nm are characterized by a decrease in SSA values compared to bare dust, in agreement with field observations.

This paper demonstrates that observationally constrained DDSCAT simulations allow one to better understand the variability of the measured aerosol optical properties in ambient air and to define benchmark biases due to different approximations in aerosol parametrization.

Final-revised paper