Marine Aerosol impact on Clouds in the Arctic (MACA)

The main objective of this project is to identify which are the marine sources of ice nuclei and cloud condensation nuclei particles in the Arctic atmosphere (Svalbard), their link to biogeochemical properties of the seawater and their potential impact of cloud properties.

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Project type

  • field work
  • modelling


  • atmosphere
  • marine biology

Project Keywords

  • atmosphere / aerosols / aerosol particle properties
  • oceans / marine biology / marine microbiota

Fieldwork information

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The influence of the oceanic biogeochemistry on aerosols and ultimately cloud properties is especially important in the Arctic, where pre-existing anthropogenic particles are low and the environment is very sensitive to climate change. On one hand, gaz-phase emissions from the seawater may form particles by nucleation, thus increasing the total number of particles in the atmosphere that may reach sizes that can act as Cloud Condensation Nuclei (CCN). The number of CCN that are present in the marine atmosphere my then influence the cloud properties (number and size of cloud droplets). On the other hand, microorganisms are directly emitted as such or as fragments in the atmosphere by bubble bursting (in the presence of white cap coverage over the sea surface). These particles have excellent Ice Nuclei (IN) properties and form ice crystals before any other particles. Ice crystals may grow at the expense of supercooled liquid droplets, thus initiating precipitations. In MACA, our approach will be to combine (1) process studies in semi-controlled experiments (mesocosms) (2) in situ field measurements of aerosol properties and (3) detailed process modelling at the cloud scale. From mesocosms experiments, our goal is to isolate from their surroundings a seawater volume and the corresponding atmospheric air above during a three weeks period in order to study sea-to-air natural fluxes. Three mesocosms will be used: a control mesocosm (unchanged) and two mesocosms modified using two different atmospheric pollutants that will likely increase in future years in the Arctic. Atmospheric emissions will be measured directly in the headspace of the mesocosms for gaz-phase and particulate clusters that may be formed from the photooxidation of these gaz-phase species. Primary aerosol emissions will also be characterized off-line by artificially generating aerosols from a wave-breaking laboratory device, using the seawaters from the mesocosms. Primary aerosol properties analyzed will be their size distribution, chemical composition, CCN and IN properties, as well as biological content. Both emission types will be linked to the seawater biogeochemical composition that will be analyzed in parallel (DOC, POC, Chl-a, Bacteria, Viruses). A similar analysis (Size distribution, chemical composition, CCN, IN, Biological content) on the ambient aerosol will be performed, in order to assess how marine aerosols contribute to ambient air properties at the site within the marine boundary layer. These results may be compared to measurements that will be performed from other groups at the Zeppelin station. At last, the impact of marine aerosol emissions on cloud properties (cloud droplet number and size, precipitating susceptibility) will be assed using a modelling approach (DESCAM 3D: Detailed Microphysics Cloud Model). In order to achieve this, sensitivity tests on the impact of variable marine aerosol sources on the cloud properties will be assessed. The model output, in the form of the cloud 3D droplet and ice cristal size distribution, as well as precipitation will eventually be compared to the real cloud microphysical measurements performed from radar measurements performed from the Japenese group during this period. The field campaign will take place in March 2017, when light intensity and the seawater phytoplanktonic activity are increasing. Experiments for the direct emission measurements will take place from a container placed on the Kingsbay harbour, next to the three mesocosms, while experiments for the primary marine emissions from bubble bursting experiments and ambient atmospheric measurements will take place for one of the Marine Lab ground-floor facility.

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