21 Nov 2023
 | 21 Nov 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

Cost Effective Off-Grid Automatic Precipitation Samplers for Pollutant and Biogeochemical Atmospheric Deposition

Alessia A. Colussi, Daniel Persaud, Melodie Lao, Bryan K. Place, Rachel F. Hems, Susan E. Ziegler, Kate A. Edwards, Cora J. Young, and Trevor C. VandenBoer

Abstract. An important transport process for particles and gases from the atmosphere to aquatic and terrestrial environments is through dry and wet deposition. An open-source, modular, off-grid, and affordable instrument that can automatically collect wet deposition samples allows for more extensive deployment of deposition samplers in fieldwork and would enable more comprehensive monitoring of remote locations. Precipitation events selectively sampled using a conductivity sensor powered by a battery-based supply are central to off-grid capabilities. The prevalence of conductive precipitation, initially containing high solute levels and progressing through trace level concentrations to ultrapure water in full atmospheric washout, depends on the sampling location but is ubiquitous. This property is exploited here to trigger an electric motor via limit switches to open and close a lid resting over a funnel opening. The motors are operated via a custom-built and modular digital logic control board, which have low energy demands. All components, their design and rationale, and assembly are provided for community use. The modularity of the control board allows operation of up to six independent wet deposition units, such that replicate measurements (e.g., canopy throughfall) or different collection materials for various targeted pollutants can be implemented as necessary.

We demonstrate that these platforms are capable of continuous operation off-grid for integrated monthly and bimonthly collections performed across the Newfoundland and Labrador Boreal Ecosystem Latitudinal Transect (47° to 53° N) during the growing seasons of 2015 and 2016. System performance was assessed through measured power consumption from 115 volts of alternating current (VAC; grid power) or 12 volts of direct current from battery supplies during operation under both standby (40 or 230 mA, respectively) and in-use (78 or 300 mA, respectively) conditions. In the field, one set of triplicate samplers was deployed in the open to collect incident precipitation (open fall) while another set was deployed under the experimental forest canopy (throughfall). The proof-of-concept systems were validated with basic measurements of rainwater chemistry including: i) pH ranging from 4.14 to 5.71 in incident open fall rainwater; ii) conductivity ranging from 21 to 166 uS/cm; and iii) dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations in open fall and canopy throughfall of 16 ± 10 mg/L and 22 ± 12 mg/L, respectively; with incident fluxes spanning 600 to 4200 mg C m-2 a-1 across the transect. Ultimately, this demonstrates that the customized precipitation sampling design of this new platform enables more universal accessibility of deposition samples to the atmospheric observation community – for example, those who have made community calls for targeting biogeochemical budgets and/or contaminants of emerging concern in sensitive and remote regions.

Alessia A. Colussi et al.

Status: open (until 07 Jan 2024)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse

Alessia A. Colussi et al.

Alessia A. Colussi et al.


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Short summary
We present a novel and inexpensive solution to the collection of automated atmospheric wet deposition samples away from source regions at integrated monthly timescales, with all components provided freely for replication.