15 Jun 2020

15 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.

The Importance of Size Ranges in Aerosol Instrument Intercomparisons: A Case Study for the ATom Mission

Hongyu Guo1,2, Pedro Campuzano-Jost1,2, Benjamin A. Nault1,2, Douglas A. Day1,2, Jason C. Schroder1,2,a, Jack E. Dibb3, Maximilian Dollner4, Bernadett Weinzierl4, and Jose L. Jimenez1,2 Hongyu Guo et al.
  • 1Department of Chemistry, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO, 80309, USA
  • 2Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO, 80309, USA
  • 3Earth Systems Research Center, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, Univ. of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, 03824, USA
  • 4Faculty of Physics, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
  • anow at: Air Pollution Control Division, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Denver, CO, 80246, USA

Abstract. Aerosol intercomparisons are inherently complex, as they convolve instrument-dependent detection efficiencies vs. size (which often change with pressure, temperature, or humidity) and variations on the sampled aerosol population, in addition to differences in chemical detection principles (e.g., including inorganic-only nitrate vs. inorganic plus organic nitrate for two instruments). The NASA Atmospheric Tomography Mission (ATom) spanned four separate aircraft deployments, which sampled the remote marine troposphere from 86° S to 82° N over different seasons with a wide range of aerosol concentrations and compositions. Aerosols were quantified with a set of carefully characterized and calibrated instruments, some based on particle sizing and some on composition measurements. This study aims to provide a critical evaluation of the size-related factors impacting aerosol intercomparisons, and of aerosol quantification during ATom, with a focus on the Aerosol Mass Spectrometer (AMS). The volume determined from physical sizing instruments is compared in detail with that derived from the chemical measurements of the AMS and the Single Particle Soot Photometer (SP2). Special attention was paid to characterize the upper end of the AMS size-dependent transmission with in-field calibrations, which we show to be critical for accurate comparisons across instruments with inevitably different size cuts. Observed differences between campaigns emphasize the importance of characterizing AMS transmission for each instrument and field study for meaningful interpretation of instrument comparisons. Good agreement was found between the composition-based volume (including AMS-quantified sea salt) and that derived from the size spectrometers. The very clean conditions during most of ATom resulted in substantial statistical noise (i.e., precision error), which we show to be substantially reduced by averaging at several-minute time intervals. The AMS captured, on average, 95 ± 15 % of the standard PM1 volume. These results support the absence of significant unknown biases and the appropriateness of the accuracy estimates for AMS total mass/volume for the mostly aged air masses encountered in ATom. The particle size ranges that contribute chemical composition information to the AMS and complementary composition instruments are investigated, to inform their use in future studies.

Hongyu Guo et al.

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Hongyu Guo et al.

Data sets

ATom: Merged Atmospheric Chemistry, Trace Gases, and Aerosols S.C. Wofsy, S. Afshar, H.M. Allen, E.C. Apel, E.C. Asher, B. Barletta, J. Bent, H. Bian, B.C. Biggs, D.R. Blake, N. Blake, I. Bourgeois, C.A. Brock, W.H. Brune, J.W. Budney, T.P. Bui, A. Butler, P. Campuzano-Jost, C.S. Chang, M. Chin, R. Commane, G. Correa, J.D. Crounse, P. D. Cullis, B.C. Daube, D.A. Day, J.M. Dean-Day, J.E. Dibb, J.P. DiGangi, G.S. Diskin, M. Dollner, J.W. Elkins, F. Erdesz, A.M. Fiore, C.M. Flynn, K.D. Froyd, D.W. Gesler, S.R. Hall, T.F. Hanisco, R.A. Hannun, A.J. Hills, E.J. Hintsa, A. Hoffman, R.S. Hornbrook, L.G. Huey, S. Hughes, J.L. Jimenez, B.J. Johnson, J.M. Katich, R.F. Keeling, M.J. Kim, A. Kupc, L.R. Lait, J.-F. Lamarque, J. Liu, K. McKain, R.J. Mclaughlin, S. Meinardi, D.O. Miller, S.A. Montzka, F.L. Moore, E.J. Morgan, D.M. Murphy, L.T. Murray, B.A. Nault, J.A. Neuman, P.A. Newman, J.M. Nicely, X. Pan, W. Paplawsky, J. Peischl, M.J. Prather, D.J. Price, E. Ray, J.M. Reeves, M. Richardson, A.W. Rollins, K.H. Rosenlof, T.B. Ryerson, E. Scheuer, G.P. Schill, J.C. Schroder, J.P. Schwarz, J.M. St.Clair, S.D. Steenrod, B.B. Stephens, S.A. Strode, C. Sweeney, D. Tanner, A.P. Teng, A.B. Thames, C.R. Thompson, K. Ullmann, P.R. Veres, N. Vieznor, N.L. Wagner, A. Watt, R. Weber, B. Weinzierl, P.O. Wennberg, C.J. Williamson, J.C. Wilson, G.M. Wolfe, C.T. Woods, and L.H. Zeng

Hongyu Guo et al.


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Short summary
We utilize a set of high-quality datasets collected during the NASA ATom aircraft mission to investigate the impact of differences in observable particle sizes across aerosol instruments, in aerosol measurement comparisons. Very good agreement was found between chemically and physically derived submicron aerosol volume. Results support a lack of significant unknown biases in the response of Aerodyne Aerosol Mass Spectrometer (AMS) when sampling remote aerosols across the globe.