Articles | Volume 17, issue 2
Research article
31 Jan 2017
Research article |  | 31 Jan 2017

Uptake of nitric acid, ammonia, and organics in orographic clouds: mass spectrometric analyses of droplet residual and interstitial aerosol particles

Johannes Schneider, Stephan Mertes, Dominik van Pinxteren, Hartmut Herrmann, and Stephan Borrmann

Abstract. Concurrent in situ analyses of interstitial aerosol and cloud droplet residues have been conducted at the Schmücke mountain site during the Hill Cap Cloud Thuringia campaign in central Germany in September and October 2010. Cloud droplets were sampled from warm clouds (temperatures between −3 and +16 °C) by a counterflow virtual impactor and the submicron-sized residues were analyzed by a compact time-of-flight aerosol mass spectrometer (C-ToF-AMS), while the interstitial aerosol composition was measured by an high-resolution time-of-flight aerosol mass spectrometer (HR-ToF-AMS). During cloud-free periods, the submicron out-of-cloud aerosol was analyzed using both instruments, allowing for intercomparison between the two instruments. Further instrumentation included black carbon measurements and optical particle counters for the aerosol particles as well as optical sizing instrumentation for the cloud droplets. The results show that, under cloud conditions, on average 85 % of the submicron aerosol mass partitioned into the cloud liquid phase. Scavenging efficiencies of nitrate, ammonium, sulfate, and organics ranged between 60 and 100 %, with nitrate having, in general, the highest values. For black carbon, the scavenging efficiency was markedly lower (about 24 %). The nitrate and ammonium mass fractions were found to be markedly enhanced in cloud residues, indicating uptake of gaseous nitric acid and ammonia into the aqueous phase. This effect was found to be temperature dependent: at lower temperatures, the nitrate and ammonium mass fractions in the residues were higher. Also, the oxidation state of the organic matter in cloud residues was found to be temperature dependent: the O : C ratio was lower at higher temperatures. A possible explanation for this observation is a more effective uptake and/or higher concentrations of low-oxidized water-soluble volatile organic compounds, possibly of biogenic origin, at higher temperatures. Organic nitrates were observed in cloud residuals as well as in the out-of-cloud aerosol, but no indication of a preferred partitioning of organic nitrates into the aqueous phase or into the gas phase was detected. Assuming the uptake of nitric acid and ammonia in cloud droplets will be reversible, it will lead to a redistribution of nitrate and ammonium among the aerosol particles, leading to more uniform, internally mixed particles after several cloud passages.

Short summary
We analyzed the composition of cloud droplet residuals and of aerosol particles sampled on a mountaintop site. The data show that about 85 % of the submicron aerosol mass partitions into the cloud phase, and that the uptake of soluble compounds (nitric acid, ammonia, and organic gases) from the gas phase into the cloud droplets is very effective. This will lead to a redistribution of these compounds among the aerosol particles and thereby to a more uniform aerosol after cloud evaporation.
Final-revised paper