Articles | Volume 16, issue 10
Research article
31 May 2016
Research article |  | 31 May 2016

Size-resolved morphological properties of the high Arctic summer aerosol during ASCOS-2008

Evelyne Hamacher-Barth, Caroline Leck, and Kjell Jansson

Abstract. The representation of aerosol properties and processes in climate models is fraught with large uncertainties. Especially at high northern latitudes a strong underprediction of aerosol concentrations and nucleation events is observed and can only be constrained by in situ observations based on the analysis of individual aerosol particles. To further reduce the uncertainties surrounding aerosol properties and their potential role as cloud condensation nuclei this study provides observational data resolved over size on morphological and chemical properties of aerosol particles collected in the summer high Arctic, north of 80° N.

Aerosol particles were imaged with scanning and transmission electron microscopy and further evaluated with digital image analysis. In total, 3909 aerosol particles were imaged and categorized according to morphological similarities into three gross morphological groups: single particles, gel particles, and halo particles. Single particles were observed between 15 and 800 nm in diameter and represent the dominating type of particles (82 %). The majority of particles appeared to be marine gels with a broad Aitken mode peaking at 70 nm and accompanied by a minor fraction of ammonium (bi)sulfate with a maximum at 170 nm in number concentration. Gel particles (11 % of all particles) were observed between 45 and 800 nm with a maximum at 154 nm in diameter. Imaging with transmission electron microscopy allowed further morphological discrimination of gel particles in "aggregate" particles, "aggregate with film" particles, and "mucus-like" particles.

Halo particles were observed above 75 nm and appeared to be ammonium (bi)sulfate (59 % of halo particles), gel matter (19 %), or decomposed gel matter (22 %), which were internally mixed with sulfuric acid, methane sulfonic acid, or ammonium (bi)sulfate with a maximum at 161 nm in diameter.

Elemental dispersive X-ray spectroscopy analysis of individual particles revealed a prevalence of the monovalent ions Na+/K+ for single particles and aggregate particles and of the divalent ions Ca2+/Mg2+ for aggregate with film particles and mucus-like particles. According to these results and other model studies, we propose a relationship between the availability of Na+/K+ and Ca2+/Mg2+ and the length of the biopolymer molecules participating in the formation of the three-dimensional gel networks.

Short summary
Aerosol particles collected during the ASCOS expedition in the high Arctic in summer 2008 were examined with electron microscopy and elemental dispersive X-ray spectroscopy. The majority of particles consisted of marine gel matter accompanied by minor fractions of ammonium (bi)sulfate and internally mixed sulfur containing particles. Depending on their morphology, marine gel particles showed prevalence for either the ions Na+/K+ or Ca2+/Mg2+.
Final-revised paper