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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  07 Oct 2020

07 Oct 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Assessing the vertical structure of Arctic aerosols using tethered-balloon-borne measurements

Jessie M. Creamean1, Gijs de Boer2,3, Hagen Telg2,3, Fan Mei4, Darielle Dexheimer5, Matthew D. Shupe2,3, Amy Solomon2,3, and Allison McComiskey6 Jessie M. Creamean et al.
  • 1Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80526, USA
  • 2Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80509, USA
  • 3Physical Sciences Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, CO 80305, USA
  • 4Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA 99354, USA
  • 5Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM 87123, USA
  • 6Brookhaven National Laboratory, Uptown, NY 11973, USA

Abstract. The rapidly-warming Arctic is sensitive to perturbations in the surface energy budget, which can be caused by clouds and aerosols. However, the interactions between clouds and aerosols are poorly quantified in the Arctic, in part due to: (1) limited observations of vertical structure of aerosols relative to clouds and (2) ground-based observations often being inadequate for assessing aerosol impacts on cloud formation in the characteristically stratified Arctic atmosphere. Here, we present a novel evaluation of Arctic aerosol vertical distributions using almost 3 years' worth of tethered balloon system (TBS) measurements spanning multiple seasons. The TBS was deployed at the U.S. Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program's facility at Oliktok Point, Alaska. Aerosols were examined in tandem with atmospheric stability and ground-based remote sensing of cloud macrophysical properties to specifically address the representativeness of near-surface aerosols to those at cloud base. Based on a statistical analysis of the TBS profiles, ground-based aerosol number concentrations were unequal to those at cloud base 86 % of the time. Intermittent aerosol layers were observed 63 % of the time due to poorly mixed below-cloud environments, mostly in the spring, causing a decoupling of the surface from the cloud layer. A uniform distribution of aerosol below cloud was observed only 14 % of the time due to a well-mixed below-cloud environment, mostly during the fall. The equivalent potential temperature profiles of the below-cloud environment reflected the aerosol profile 89 % of the time whereby a mixed or stratified below-cloud environment was observed during a uniform or layered aerosol profile, respectively. In general, a combination of aerosol sources, thermodynamic structure, and wet removal processes from clouds and precipitation likely played a key role in establishing observed aerosol vertical structure. Results such as these could be used to improve future parameterizations of aerosols and their impacts on Arctic cloud formation and radiative properties.

Jessie M. Creamean et al.

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Jessie M. Creamean et al.

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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Arctic clouds play a role in modulating sea ice extent. Importantly, aerosols facilitate cloud formation and thus, it is crucial to understand the interactions between aerosols and clouds. Vertical measurements of aerosols and clouds are needed to tackle this issue. We present results from balloon-borne measurements of aerosols and clouds over the course of 2 years in Northern Alaska. These data shed light into the vertical distributions of aerosols relative to clouds spanning multiple seasons.
Arctic clouds play a role in modulating sea ice extent. Importantly, aerosols facilitate cloud...