LOAC: a small aerosol optical counter/sizer for ground-based and balloon measurements of the size distribution and nature of atmospheric particles – Part 1: Principle of measurements and instrument evaluation
Abstract. The study of aerosols in the troposphere and in the stratosphere is of major importance both for climate and air quality studies. Among the numerous instruments available, optical aerosol particles counters (OPCs) provide the size distribution in diameter range from about 100 nm to a few tens of µm. Most of them are very sensitive to the nature of aerosols, and this can result in significant biases in the retrieved size distribution. We describe here a new versatile optical particle/sizer counter named LOAC (Light Optical Aerosol Counter), which is light and compact enough to perform measurements not only at the surface but under all kinds of balloons in the troposphere and in the stratosphere. LOAC is an original OPC performing observations at two scattering angles. The first one is around 12°, and is almost insensitive to the refractive index of the particles; the second one is around 60° and is strongly sensitive to the refractive index of the particles. By combining measurement at the two angles, it is possible to retrieve the size distribution between 0.2 and 100 µm and to estimate the nature of the dominant particles (droplets, carbonaceous, salts and mineral particles) when the aerosol is relatively homogeneous. This typology is based on calibration charts obtained in the laboratory. The uncertainty for total concentrations measurements is ±20 % when concentrations are higher than 1 particle cm−3 (for a 10 min integration time). For lower concentrations, the uncertainty is up to about ±60 % for concentrations smaller than 10−2 particle cm−3. Also, the uncertainties in size calibration are ±0.025 µm for particles smaller than 0.6 µm, 5 % for particles in the 0.7–2 µm range, and 10 % for particles greater than 2 µm. The measurement accuracy of submicronic particles could be reduced in a strongly turbid case when concentration of particles > 3 µm exceeds a few particles cm−3. Several campaigns of cross-comparison of LOAC with other particle counting instruments and remote sensing photometers have been conducted to validate both the size distribution derived by LOAC and the retrieved particle number density. The typology of the aerosols has been validated in well-defined conditions including urban pollution, desert dust episodes, sea spray, fog, and cloud. Comparison with reference aerosol mass monitoring instruments also shows that the LOAC measurements can be successfully converted to mass concentrations.