Articles | Volume 5, issue 11
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. Schwarz, S. J. Doherty, F. Li, S. T. Ruggiero, C. E. Tanner, A. E. Perring, R. S. Gao, and D. W. Fahey

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.