26 Apr 2024
 | 26 Apr 2024
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

Producing aerosol size distributions consistent with optical particle counters measurements using space-based measurements of aerosol extinction coefficient

Nicholas Ernest, Larry W. Thomason, and Terry Deshler

Abstract. Stratospheric aerosol has been observed by several long-lived observational systems. These include the University of Wyoming series of balloon-borne optical particle counters (OPCs) (1971–2020) and the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment (SAGE) series of instruments and particularly SAGE II (1984–2005). Inferences of aerosol surface area density (SAD) and volume density are straightforward using data from OPCs. Conversely, many numerical methods to infer size distributions and SAD have been applied to SAGE II observations but all are limited by the low information content of the SAGE optical measurements. We have developed a new method that uses OPC observations to constrain SAGE II inferences of aerosol properties. We start by noting that whatever the details of the underlying size distribution, the SAGE II measured aerosol extinction coefficient ratio (525 to 1020 nm) must reflect the shape of the underlying aerosol size distribution for particles that dominate the extinction coefficient values (roughly radii from 0.1 to 0.5 μm). Since this extinction ratio can be easily calculated from OPC measurements, we use the OPC size distribution measurements, across a broad range of aerosol levels from background to highly volcanic, to compute the associated 525 to 1020 nm extinction coefficient ratios for each measurement. We then sort the OPC measurements by these ratios (across a range of roughly 1 to 6) into discrete ratio bins and derive mean bimodal log-normal size distributions for each bin using a particle swarm optimization. These fits can be applied to SAGE II observations without the need for further retrieval calculations effectively producing an OPC-like product consisting of the six bimodal parameters for all SAGE II observations. This method successfully captures the median behavior of the OPC inferences of bulk parameters like aerosol surface area and volume density, although we also observe a significant altitude dependence particularly in the lower stratosphere. In addition, there are occasional deviations of surface area density from the fit behavior by as large as a factor of 10 for individual OPC measurements of SAD, almost exclusively due to a broad range in particles below 0.15 μm. The presence of such particles is effectively invisible to extinction coefficient measurements such as those by SAGE II.

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Nicholas Ernest, Larry W. Thomason, and Terry Deshler

Status: open (until 30 Jun 2024)

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  • RC1: 'Comment on amt-2024-62', Anonymous Referee #1, 29 May 2024 reply
Nicholas Ernest, Larry W. Thomason, and Terry Deshler
Nicholas Ernest, Larry W. Thomason, and Terry Deshler


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Short summary
We use balloon-borne measurements of aerosol size distribution (ASD) made by the University of Wyoming (UW) to derive distributions which are representative of the ASDs that underlie measurements made by the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment II (SAGE II). A simple single mode log-normal distribution has in the past been used to derive ASD from SAGE II data; here we derive bimodal log-normal distributions. Reproducing median aerosol properties, however sometimes with wide variance.