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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  19 Jun 2020

19 Jun 2020

Review status
A revised version of this preprint was accepted for the journal AMT and is expected to appear here in due course.

Best practices for precipitation sample storage for offline studies of ice nucleation

Charlotte M. Beall1, Dolan Lucero2, Thomas C. Hill3, Paul J. DeMott3, M. Dale Stokes1, and Kimberly A. Prather1,4 Charlotte M. Beall et al.
  • 1Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, 92037, USA
  • 2Department of Earth and Environmental Science, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, NM, 87801, USA
  • 3Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, 80523, USA
  • 4Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, 92093, USA

Abstract. Ice nucleating particles (INPs) are efficiently removed from clouds through precipitation, a convenience of nature for the study of these very rare particles that influence multiple climate-relevant cloud properties including ice crystal concentrations, size distributions, and phase-partitioning processes. INPs suspended in precipitation can be used to estimate in-cloud INP concentrations and to infer their original composition. Offline droplet assays are commonly used to measure INP concentrations in precipitation samples. Heat and filtration treatments are also used to probe INP composition and size ranges. Many previous studies report storing samples prior to INP analyses, but little is known about the effects of storage on INP concentration or their sensitivity to treatments. Here, through a study of 15 precipitation samples collected at a coastal location in La Jolla, CA, USA, we found significant changes caused by storage to concentrations of INPs with warm to moderate freezing temperatures (−7 to −19 ºC). We compared four conditions: 1.) storage at room temperature (+21–23 ºC), 2.) storage at +4 ºC 3.) storage at −20 ºC, and 4.) flash freezing samples with liquid nitrogen prior to storage at −20 ºC. Results demonstrate that storage can lead to both enhancements and losses of greater than one order of magnitude, with non-heat-labile INPs being generally less sensitive to storage regime, but significant losses of INPs smaller than 0.45 μm in all tested storage protocols. No correlation was found between total storage time (1–166 days) and changes in INP concentration. We provide the following recommendations for preservation of precipitation samples from coastal environments intended for INP analysis: that samples be stored at −20 ºC to minimize storage artifacts, that changes due to storage are likely and an additional uncertainty in INP concentrations, and that filtration treatments be applied only to fresh samples. Average INP losses of 72 %, 42 %, 25 % and 32 % were observed for untreated samples stored using the room temperature, +4 ºC, −20 ºC, and flash frozen protocols, respectively. Finally, correction factors are provided so that INP measurements obtained from stored samples may be used to estimate concentrations in fresh samples.

Charlotte M. Beall et al.

Charlotte M. Beall et al.

Charlotte M. Beall et al.


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Latest update: 24 Oct 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Ice nucleating particles (INPs) can have significant impacts on many cloud properties. Previous studies report INP observations from precipitation samples that were stored prior to analysis, yet storage protocols vary widely, and little is known about how storage impacts INPs. This study finds that storing samples at −20 °C best preserves INP concentrations and that significant losses of small INPs occur across all storage protocols.
Ice nucleating particles (INPs) can have significant impacts on many cloud properties. Previous...