Factors controlling marine aerosol size distributions and their climate effects over the northwest Atlantic Ocean region

WashU affiliated authors: Randall V. Martin and Erin E. McDuffie (Dept. of Energy, Environmental, and Chemical Engineering)

Abstract: Aerosols over Earth’s remote and spatially extensive ocean surfaces have important influences on planetary climate. However, these aerosols and their effects remain poorly understood, in part due to the remoteness and limited observations over these regions. In this study, we seek to understand factors that shape marine aerosol size distributions and composition in the northwest Atlantic Ocean region. We use the GEOS-Chem model with the TwO-Moment Aerosol Sectional (TOMAS) microphysics algorithm model to interpret measurements collected from ship and aircraft during the four seasonal campaigns of the North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study (NAAMES) conducted between 2015 and 2018. Observations from the NAAMES campaigns show enhancements in the campaign-median number of aerosols with diameters larger than 3 nm in the lower troposphere (below 6 km), most pronounced during the phytoplankton bloom maxima (May/June) below 2 km in the free troposphere. Our simulations, combined with NAAMES ship and aircraft measurements, suggest several key factors that contribute to aerosol number and size in the northwest Atlantic lower troposphere, with significant regional-mean (40–60∘ N and 20–50∘ W) cloud-albedo aerosol indirect effect (AIE) and direct radiative effect (DRE) processes during the phytoplankton bloom. These key factors and their associated simulated radiative effects in the region include the following: (1) particle formation near and above the marine boundary layer (MBL) top (AIE: −3.37 W m−2, DRE: −0.62 W m−2); (2) particle growth due to marine secondary organic aerosol (MSOA) as the nascent particles subside into the MBL, enabling them to become cloud-condensation-nuclei-sized particles (AIE: −2.27 W m−2, DRE: −0.10 W m−2); (3) particle formation and growth due to the products of dimethyl sulfide, above and within the MBL (−1.29 W m−2, DRE: −0.06 W m−2); (4) ship emissions (AIE: −0.62 W m−2, DRE: −0.05 W m−2); and (5) primary sea spray emissions (AIE: +0.04 W m−2, DRE: −0.79 W m−2). Our results suggest that a synergy of particle formation in the lower troposphere (particularly near and above the MBL top) and growth by MSOA contributes strongly to cloud-condensation-nuclei-sized particles with significant regional radiative effects in the northwest Atlantic. To gain confidence in radiative effect magnitudes, future work is needed to understand (1) the sources and temperature dependence of condensable marine vapors forming MSOA, (2) primary sea spray emissions, and (3) the species that can form new particles in the lower troposphere and grow these particles as they descend into the marine boundary layer.

Citation: Croft, B., Martin, R. V., Moore, R. H., Ziemba, L. D., Crosbie, E. C., Liu, H., Russell, L. M., Saliba, G., Wisthaler, A., Müller, M., Schiller, A., Galí, M., Chang, R. Y.-W., McDuffie, E. E., Bilsback, K. R., and Pierce, J. R.: Factors controlling marine aerosol size distributions and their climate effects over the northwest Atlantic Ocean region, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 21, 1889–1916, https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-21-1889-2021, 2021.