Assessing the vertical structure of Arctic aerosols using tethered-balloon-borne measurements Journal Article uri icon



  • Abstract. The rapidly-warming Arctic is sensitive to perturbations in the surface energy budget, which can be caused by clouds and aerosols. However, the interactions between clouds and aerosols are poorly quantified in the Arctic, in part due to: (1) limited observations of vertical structure of aerosols relative to clouds and (2) ground-based observations often being inadequate for assessing aerosol impacts on cloud formation in the characteristically stratified Arctic atmosphere. Here, we present a novel evaluation of Arctic aerosol vertical distributions using almost 3 years' worth of tethered balloon system (TBS) measurements spanning multiple seasons. The TBS was deployed at the U.S. Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program's facility at Oliktok Point, Alaska. Aerosols were examined in tandem with atmospheric stability and ground-based remote sensing of cloud macrophysical properties to specifically address the representativeness of near-surface aerosols to those at cloud base. Based on a statistical analysis of the TBS profiles, ground-based aerosol number concentrations were unequal to those at cloud base 86 % of the time. Intermittent aerosol layers were observed 63 % of the time due to poorly mixed below-cloud environments, mostly in the spring, causing a decoupling of the surface from the cloud layer. A uniform distribution of aerosol below cloud was observed only 14 % of the time due to a well-mixed below-cloud environment, mostly during the fall. The equivalent potential temperature profiles of the below-cloud environment reflected the aerosol profile 89 % of the time whereby a mixed or stratified below-cloud environment was observed during a uniform or layered aerosol profile, respectively. In general, a combination of aerosol sources, thermodynamic structure, and wet removal processes from clouds and precipitation likely played a key role in establishing observed aerosol vertical structure. Results such as these could be used to improve future parameterizations of aerosols and their impacts on Arctic cloud formation and radiative properties.;

publication date

  • January 1, 2021

Date in CU Experts

  • January 6, 2021 11:05 AM

Full Author List

  • Creamean JM; de Boer G; Telg H; Mei F; Dexheimer D; Shupe MD; Solomon A; McComiskey A

author count

  • 8

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