08 Sep 2021

08 Sep 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Pan-Arctic seasonal cycles and long-term trends of aerosol properties from ten observatories

Julia Schmale1, Sangeeta Sharma2, Stefano Decesari3, Jakob Pernov4, Andreas Massling4, Hans-Christen Hansson5, Knut von Salzen2, Henrik Skov4, Elisabeth Andrews6, Patricia K. Quinn7, Lucia M. Upchurch7,8, Konstantinos Eleftheriadis9, and Rita Traversi10,11 Julia Schmale et al.
  • 1Extreme Environments Research Laboratory, École Polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, 1951 Sion, Switzerland
  • 2Environment and Climate Change Canada, Science and Technology Branch, Climate Research Division, 4905 Dufferin Street, Toronto, Ontario M5T 3H4, Canada
  • 3Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, National Research Council of Italy, 40129 Bologna, Italy
  • 4Department of Environmental Science, iClimate, Aarhus University, Frederiksborgvej 399, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark
  • 5Department of Environmental Science, Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
  • 6Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA
  • 7Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Seattle, WA, USA
  • 8Cooperative Institute for Climate, Ocean, and Ecosystem Studies, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
  • 9NCSR "Demokritos"-Institute of Nuclear and Radiological Sciences and Technology, Energy and Safety Environmental Radioactivity Laboratory, 15310 Athens, Greece
  • 10Department of Chemistry “Ugo Schiff”, University of Florence, 50019 Sesto (Florence), Italy
  • 11Institute of Polar Sciences, ISP-CNR, University of Venice, 30172 Venice, Italy

Abstract. Even though the Arctic is remote, aerosol properties observed there are strongly influenced by anthropogenic emissions from outside the Arctic. This is particularly true for the so-called Arctic haze season (January through April). In summer (June through September), when atmospheric transport patterns change, and precipitation is more frequent, local Arctic, i.e. natural sources of aerosols and precursors, play an important role. Over the last decades, significant reductions in anthropogenic emissions have taken place. At the same time a large body of literature shows evidence that the Arctic is undergoing fundamental environmental changes due to climate forcing, leading to enhanced emissions by natural processes that may impact aerosol properties.

In this study, we analyze nine aerosol chemical species and four particle optical properties from ten Arctic observatories (Alert, Gruvebadet, Kevo, Pallas, Summit, Thule, Tiksi, Barrow, Villum, Zeppelin) to understand changes in anthropogenic and natural aerosol contributions. Variables include equivalent black carbon, particulate sulfate, nitrate, ammonium, methanesulfonic acid, sodium, iron, calcium and potassium, as well as scattering and absorption coefficients, single scattering albedo and scattering Ångström exponent.

First, annual cycles are investigated, which despite anthropogenic emission reductions still show the Arctic haze phenomenon. Second, long-term trends are studied using the Mann-Kendall Theil-Sen slope method. We find in total 28 significant trends over full station records, i.e. spanning more than a decade, compared to 17 significant decadal trends. The majority of significantly declining trends is from anthropogenic tracers and occurred during the haze period, driven by emission changes between 1990 and 2000. For the summer period, no uniform picture of trends has emerged. Twenty-one percent of trends, i.e. eleven out of 57, are significant, and of those five are positive and six are negative. Negative trends include not only anthropogenic tracers such as equivalent black carbon at Kevo, but also natural indicators such as methanesulfonic acid and non-sea salt calcium at Alert. Positive trends are observed for sulfate at Zeppelin and Gruvebadet.

No clear evidence of a significant change in the natural aerosol contribution can be observed yet. However, testing the sensitivity of the Mann-Kendall Theil-Sen method, we find that monotonic changes of around 5 % per year in an aerosol property are needed to detect a significant trend within one decade. This highlights that long-term efforts well beyond a decade are needed to capture smaller changes. It is particularly important to understand the ongoing natural changes in the Arctic, where interannual variability can be high, such as with forest fire emissions and their influence on the aerosol population.

To investigate the climate-change induced influence on the aerosol population and the resulting climate feedback, long-term observations of tracers more specific to natural sources are needed, as well as of particle microphysical properties such as size distributions, which can be used to identify changes in particle populations which are not well captured by mass-oriented methods such as bulk chemical composition.

Julia Schmale et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on acp-2021-756', Anonymous Referee #1, 01 Oct 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on acp-2021-756', Anonymous Referee #2, 11 Oct 2021

Julia Schmale et al.

Julia Schmale et al.


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Short summary
Long-term data sets of Arctic aerosol properties from ten stations across the Arctic provide evidence that anthropogenic influence on the Arctic atmospheric chemical composition has declined in winter, a season which is typically dominated by mid-latitude emissions. The number of significant trends in summer trends is small and overall the pattern is ambiguous with some significant positive and negative trends. This reflects the mixed influence of natural and anthropogenic emissions.