Ice nucleation of ammonia gas exposed montmorillonite mineral dust particles
Abstract. The ice nucleation characteristics of montmorillonite mineral dust aerosols with and without exposure to ammonia gas were measured at different atmospheric temperatures and relative humidities with a continuous flow diffusion chamber. The montmorillonite particles were exposed to pure (100%) and diluted ammonia gas (25 ppm) at room temperature in a stainless steel chamber. There was no significant change in the mineral dust particle size distribution due to the ammonia gas exposure. 100% pure ammonia gas exposure enhanced the ice nucleating fraction of montmorillonite mineral dust particles 3 to 8 times at 90% relative humidity with respect to water (RHw) and 5 to 8 times at 100% RHw for 120 min exposure time compared to unexposed montmorillonite within our experimental conditions. The percentages of active ice nuclei were 2 to 8 times higher at 90% RHw and 2 to 7 times higher at 100% RHw in 25 ppm ammonia exposed montmorillonite compared to unexposed montmorillonite. All montmorillonite particles are more efficient as ice nuclei with increasing relative humidities and decreasing temperatures. The activation temperature of montmorillonite exposed to 100% pure ammonia was 15°C higher than for unexposed montmorillonite particles at 90% RHw. In the 25 ppm ammonia exposed montmorillonite experiments, the activation temperature was 10°C warmer than unexposed montmorillonite at 90% RHw. Degassing does not reverse the ice nucleating ability of ammonia exposed montmorillonite mineral dust particles suggesting that the ammonia is chemically bound to the montmorillonite particle. This is the first experimental evidence that ammonia gas exposed montmorillonite mineral dust particles can enhance its activation as ice nuclei and that the activation can occur at temperatures warmer than –10°C where natural atmospheric ice nuclei are very scarce.