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https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2020-521
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2020-521
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 18 Jun 2020

Submitted as: research article | 18 Jun 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

From a polar to a marine environment: has the changing Arctic led to a shift in aerosol light scattering properties?

Dominic Heslin-Rees1,2, Maria Burgos1,2, Hans-Christen Hansson1,2, Radovan Krejci1,2, Johan Ström1,2, Peter Tunved1,2, and Paul Zieger1,2 Dominic Heslin-Rees et al.
  • 1Department of Environmental Science, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 2Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract. The study of long-term trends in aerosol optical properties is an important task to understand the underlying aerosol processes influencing the change of climate. The Arctic, as the place where climate change manifests most, is an especially sensitive region of the world. Within this work, we use a unique long-term data record of key aerosol optical properties from Zeppelin observatory, Svalbard, to ask the question of whether the environmental changes of the last two decades in the Arctic are reflected in the observations. We perform a trend analysis of the measured particle light scattering and backscattering coefficients and the derived scattering Ångström exponent and hemispheric backscattering fraction. In contrast to previous studies, the effect of in-cloud scavenging and potential sampling losses at the site is taken explicitly into account in the trend analysis. The analysis is combined with a back trajectory analysis and satellite-derived sea ice data, to support the interpretation of the observed trends. We find that the optical properties of aerosol particles have undergone clear and significant changes in the past two decades. The scattering Angström exponent and the particle light scattering coefficient exhibit statistically significant decreasing of between −4.9 and −6.3 % per year (using wavelengths of λ = 450 and 550 nm) and increasing trends of between 2.3 and 2.9 % per year (at a wavelength of λ = 550 nm), respectively. The magnitudes of the trends vary depending on the season. These trends indicate a shift to an aerosol dominated more by coarse-mode particles, most likely the result of increases in the relative amount of sea spray aerosol. We show that changes in air mass circulation patterns, specifically an increase in air masses from the south-west, are responsible for the shift in aerosol optical properties, while the decrease of Arctic sea ice in the last two decades had only a marginal influence on the observed trends.

Dominic Heslin-Rees et al.

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Latest update: 04 Jul 2020
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Short summary
Aerosol particles are one important key-player for the Arctic climate. Using long-term measurements of particle light scattering from an observatory on Svalbard, this study investigates the reasons behind an observed shift towards larger particles seen in the last two decades. We find that increases in sea spray are the most likely cause. Air masses from the south-west have increased significantly, suggestive of a potential mechanism, whilst the retreat in sea ice has a marginal influence.
Aerosol particles are one important key-player for the Arctic climate. Using long-term...
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