Articles | Volume 16, issue 20
Research article
20 Oct 2016
Research article |  | 20 Oct 2016

Observations and regional modeling of aerosol optical properties, speciation and size distribution over Northern Africa and western Europe

Laurent Menut, Guillaume Siour, Sylvain Mailler, Florian Couvidat, and Bertrand Bessagnet

Abstract. The aerosol speciation and size distribution is modeled during the summer 2013 and over a large area encompassing Africa, Mediterranean and western Europe. The modeled aerosol is compared to available measurements such as the AERONET aerosol optical depth (AOD) and aerosol size distribution (ASD) and the EMEP network for surface concentrations of particulate matter PM2.5, PM10 and inorganic species (nitrate, sulfate and ammonium). The main goal of this study is to quantify the model ability to realistically model the speciation and size distribution of the aerosol. Results first showed that the long-range transport pathways are well reproduced and mainly constituted by mineral dust: spatial correlation is  ≈  0.9 for AOD and Ångström exponent, when temporal correlations show that the day-to-day variability is more difficult to reproduce. Over Europe, PM2.5 and PM10 have a mean temporal correlation of  ≈  0.4 but the lowest spatial correlation ( ≈  0.25 and 0.62, respectively), showing that the fine particles are not well localized or transported. Being short-lived species, the uncertainties on meteorology and emissions induce these lowest scores. However, time series of PM2.5 with the speciation show a good agreement between model and measurements and are useful for discriminating the aerosol composition. Using a classification from the south (Africa) to the north (northern Europe), it is shown that mineral dust relative mass contribution decreases from 50 to 10 % when nitrate increases from 0 to 20 % and all other species, sulfate, sea salt, ammonium, elemental carbon, primary organic matter, are constant. The secondary organic aerosol contribution is between 10 and 20 % with a maximum at the latitude of the Mediterranean Sea (Spanish stations). For inorganic species, it is shown that nitrate, sulfate and ammonium have a mean temporal correlation of 0.25, 0.37 and 0.17, respectively. The spatial correlation is better (0.25, 0.5 and 0.87), showing that the mean values may be biased but the spatial localization of sulfate and ammonium is well reproduced. The size distribution is compared to the AERONET product and it is shown that the model fairly reproduces the main values for the fine and coarse mode. In particular, for the fine mode, the model overestimates the aerosol mass in Africa and underestimates it in Europe.

Short summary
The aerosol is modelled during the summer 2013 with the WRF and CHIMERE models and over a large area encompassing Africa, Mediterranean sea and west Europe. The modelled aerosol is compared to available measurements such as the AERONET and EMEP networks. The model ability to estimate the aerosol speciation and size distribution is quantified.
Final-revised paper