Black Carbon in Snow during the Arctic Haze Season (BlaCkSnow-AHS)

Pilot-study to measure black carbon/soot concentrations within the near surface air and the snow cover with a Single Particle Soot Photometer (SP2). Atmospheric measurements and the analysis of snow samples will be done with the same SP2 by employing a high efficiency nebuliser to analyse liquid samples of melted snow or rain.

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Project type

  • field work


  • atmosphere
  • cryosphere

Project Keywords

  • cryosphere / snow/ice / snow energy balance
  • atmosphere / aerosols / carbonaceous aerosols
  • atmosphere / aerosols / aerosol particle properties
  • atmosphere / atmospheric radiation / albedo
  • atmosphere / aerosols / aerosol extinction
  • cryosphere / snow/ice / snow stratigraphy
  • atmosphere / atmospheric radiation / absorption
  • cryosphere / sea ice / snow melt
  • cryosphere / snow/ice / albedo

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The solar energy absorbed by BC leads to a warming of the near surface air when locally produced/emitted constituents reside at low altitudes and/or are partly deposited onto the snow surface. Contrarily long-range transport of BC into the Arctic, remaining in higher atmosphere layers, will lead to cooling of the surface. Both effects may significantly affect Arctic Amplification by their potential influence on the surface energy budget, sea ice thickness and content. About 40% of the Arctic Amplification was attributed to the surface albedo feedback associated with melting snow and ice [Graversen et al, 2014]. However, concurrent observations of atmospheric BC, BC in snow and surface properties are rare. To model the reduction in snow albedo due to deposited BC right, the optical properties of BC and its distribution in the snow have to be known. Yet, even recent studies assume a constant mass-normalised absorption cross section (MAC) of BC particles that is very generalised, although, especially in the Arctic, particles are subject so several processes within the atmosphere and snow, that alter the optical properties [Bond and Bergstrom 2006; Schwarz et al. 2013]. Hence, further investigations of the actual state of aerosol in the Arctic are necessary to approach the high uncertainties in climate forcing estimates [IPCC/Stocker et al., 2013]. The SP2 is an instrument able to evaluate individual aerosol particles for the refractory BC mass content, size and mixing state based on the laser-induced incandescence method and can gather information on the scattering part of the aerosol ensemble. This instrument is used in our group for atmospheric studies in the Arctic aboard the AWI research aircraft since 2009. Measurements with the SP2 during several aircraft campaigns around stations in the Western Arctic, from Svalbard up to Alaska, indicate a large variability, both vertically and horizontally, in particle mass, size and number concentration. This variability is caused by the plume like spatial structure of air masses that transport pollutants episodically into the Arctic, but also local emissions can contribute significantly to the pollution on a regional scale. Within the snow, the size distribution of BC particles and the vertical distribution of BC mass within the snow cover are responsible for increased light absorption compared to pure snow. Therefore, we would like to establish a measurement setup to capture the temporal variability of BC properties in the snow and to monitor the potential causes for the variability, such as the BC input from the atmosphere, local meteorology and snow properties. Atmospheric concentrations of BC will be monitored with our SP2 over the whole period of the study. Schwarz et al. 2013 and Ohata et al., 2013, demonstrated the capabilities of the SP2 to also analyse BC particles in melted snow samples when it is equipped with a nebuliser system. This way, the SP2 is able to measure the mass and size of individual BC particles directly, in both the atmospheric and liquid samples. Our pilot-study will try to measure profiles of BC in the snow with high vertical resolution by utilising the fact that the SP2 with the CETAC Marin-5 nebuliser system only needs small sample volumes compared to filter based methods. Dry deposition due to local emissions within near-surface air and deposition of BC from higher altitudes with falling snow may cause a highly variable stratification of snow layers incorporating BC. We expect the optical properties to be inhomogeneously distributed within the snowpack due to various processes occurring in the atmosphere and the snow that change the size distribution and composition of BC particles [Schwarz et al., 2013, and reference therein]. A successfully established measurement procedure could produce input parameters for the absorption due to BC in radiative transfer simulations of snow reflectance with high vertical resolution and also temporal variability.

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