Articles | Volume 5, issue 11
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 5, 2581–2592, 2012
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 5, 2581–2592, 2012

Research article 01 Nov 2012

Research article | 01 Nov 2012

Assessing Single Particle Soot Photometer and Integrating Sphere/Integrating Sandwich Spectrophotometer measurement techniques for quantifying black carbon concentration in snow

J. P. Schwarz1,2, S. J. Doherty3, F. Li4, S. T. Ruggiero4, C. E. Tanner4, A. E. Perring1,2, R. S. Gao1, and D. W. Fahey1,2 J. P. Schwarz et al.
  • 1Chemical Sciences Division, Earth System Research Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, Colorado, USA
  • 2Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA
  • 3JISAO, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA
  • 4Department of Physics, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, USA

Abstract. We evaluate the performance of the Single Particle Soot Photometer (SP2) and the Integrating Sphere/Integrating Sandwich Spectrophotometer (ISSW) in quantifying the concentration of refractory black carbon (BC) in snow samples. We find that the SP2 can be used to measure BC mass concentration in snow with substantially larger uncertainty (60%) than for atmospheric sampling (<30%). Achieving this level of accuracy requires careful assessment of nebulizer performance and SP2 calibration with consideration of the fact that BC in snow can exist in larger sizes than typically observed in the atmosphere. Once these issues are addressed, the SP2 is able to measure the size distribution and mass concentration of BC in the snow. Laboratory comparison of the SP2 and the ISSW revealed significant biases in the estimate of BC concentration from the ISSW when test samples contained dust or non-absorbing particulates. These results suggest that current estimates of BC mass concentration in snow or ice formed from fallen snow using either the SP2 or the ISSW may be associated with significant underestimates of uncertainty.