Articles | Volume 6, issue 4
Research article
03 Apr 2013
Research article |  | 03 Apr 2013

Broadband measurements of aerosol extinction in the ultraviolet spectral region

R. A. Washenfelder, J. M. Flores, C. A. Brock, S. S. Brown, and Y. Rudich

Abstract. Aerosols influence the Earth's radiative budget by scattering and absorbing incoming solar radiation. The optical properties of aerosols vary as a function of wavelength, but few measurements have reported the wavelength dependence of aerosol extinction cross sections and complex refractive indices. We describe a new laboratory instrument to measure aerosol optical extinction as a function of wavelength, using cavity enhanced spectroscopy with a broadband light source. The instrument consists of two broadband channels which span the 360–390 and 385–420 nm spectral regions using two light emitting diodes (LED) and a grating spectrometer with charge-coupled device (CCD) detector. We determined aerosol extinction cross sections and directly observed Mie scattering resonances for aerosols that are purely scattering (polystyrene latex spheres and ammonium sulfate), slightly absorbing (Suwannee River fulvic acid), and strongly absorbing (nigrosin dye). We describe an approach for retrieving refractive indices as a function of wavelength from the measured extinction cross sections over the 360–420 nm wavelength region. The retrieved refractive indices for PSL and ammonium sulfate agree within uncertainty with the literature values for this spectral region. The refractive index determined for nigrosin is 1.78 (± 0.03) + 0.19 (± 0.08)i at 360 nm and 1.63 (± 0.03) + 0.21 (± 0.05)i at 420 nm. The refractive index determined for Suwannee River fulvic acid is 1.71 (± 0.02) + 0.07 (± 0.06)i at 360 nm and 1.66 (± 0.02) + 0.06 (± 0.04)i at 420 nm. These laboratory results support the potential for a field instrument capable of determining ambient aerosol optical extinction, average aerosol extinction cross section, and complex refractive index as a function of wavelength.