Nucleation modeling of the Antarctic stratospheric CN layer and derivation of sulfuric acid profiles
Abstract. Recent analysis of long-term balloon-borne measurements of Antarctic stratospheric condensation nuclei (CN) between July and October showed the formation of a volatile CN layer at 21–27 km altitude in a background of existing particles. We use the nucleation model SAWNUC to simulate these CN in subsiding air parcels and study their nucleation and coagulation characteristics. Our simulations confirm recent analysis that the development of the CN layer can be explained with neutral sulfuric acid–water nucleation and we show that outside the CN layer the measured CN concentrations are well reproduced just considering coagulation and the subsidence of the air parcels. While ion-induced nucleation is expected as the dominating formation process at higher temperatures, it does not play a significant role during the CN layer formation as the charged clusters recombine too fast. Further, we derive sulfuric acid concentrations for the CN layer formation. Our concentrations are about 1 order of magnitude higher than previously presented concentrations as our simulations consider that nucleated clusters have to grow to CN size and can coagulate with preexisting particles. Finally, we calculate threshold sulfuric acid profiles that show which concentration of sulfuric acid is necessary for nucleation and growth to observable size. These threshold profiles should represent upper limits of the actual sulfuric acid outside the CN layer. According to our profiles, sulfuric acid concentrations seem to be below midlatitude average during Antarctic winter but above midlatitude average for the CN layer formation.