Articles | Volume 16, issue 8
Research article
22 Apr 2016
Research article |  | 22 Apr 2016

Aerosol optical properties in the southeastern United States in summer – Part 1: Hygroscopic growth

Charles A. Brock, Nicholas L. Wagner, Bruce E. Anderson, Alexis R. Attwood, Andreas Beyersdorf, Pedro Campuzano-Jost, Annmarie G. Carlton, Douglas A. Day, Glenn S. Diskin, Timothy D. Gordon, Jose L. Jimenez, Daniel A. Lack, Jin Liao, Milos Z. Markovic, Ann M. Middlebrook, Nga L. Ng, Anne E. Perring, Matthews S. Richardson, Joshua P. Schwarz, Rebecca A. Washenfelder, Andre Welti, Lu Xu, Luke D. Ziemba, and Daniel M. Murphy

Abstract. Aircraft observations of meteorological, trace gas, and aerosol properties were made during May–September 2013 in the southeastern United States (US) under fair-weather, afternoon conditions with well-defined planetary boundary layer structure. Optical extinction at 532 nm was directly measured at relative humidities (RHs) of  ∼  15,  ∼  70, and  ∼  90 % and compared with extinction calculated from measurements of aerosol composition and size distribution using the κ-Köhler approximation for hygroscopic growth. The calculated enhancement in hydrated aerosol extinction with relative humidity, f(RH), calculated by this method agreed well with the observed f(RH) at  ∼  90 % RH. The dominance of organic aerosol, which comprised 65 ± 10 % of particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter  <  1 µm in the planetary boundary layer, resulted in relatively low f(RH) values of 1.43 ± 0.67 at 70 % RH and 2.28 ± 1.05 at 90 % RH. The subsaturated κ-Köhler hygroscopicity parameter κ for the organic fraction of the aerosol must have been  <  0.10 to be consistent with 75 % of the observations within uncertainties, with a best estimate of κ  =  0.05. This subsaturated κ value for the organic aerosol in the southeastern US is broadly consistent with field studies in rural environments. A new, physically based, single-parameter representation was developed that better described f(RH) than did the widely used gamma power-law approximation.

Short summary
Microscopic pollution particles make the atmosphere look hazy and also cool the earth by sending sunlight back to space. When the air is moist, these particles swell with water and scatter even more sunlight. We showed that particles formed from organic material – which dominates particulate pollution in the southeastern U.S. – does not take up water very effectively, toward the low end of most previous studies. We also found a better way to mathematically describe this swelling process.
Final-revised paper