Variations in the physicochemical and optical properties of; natural aerosols in Puerto Rico – Implications for climate Journal Article uri icon



  • Abstract. Since 2005, we have monitored the physicochemical and optical properties of aerosols at the Cape San Juan Atmospheric Observatory, Puerto Rico. Based on the Hybrid Single-Particle Lagrangian Integrated trajectories (HYSPLIT) and satellite imagery from the Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) in Washington D.C., Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), and Saharan air layer (SAL) images, we grouped natural aerosols in three categories: marine, African dust and volcanic ash. A sun-sky radiometer from the NASA’s AErosol RObotic NETwork (AERONET) assessed the total aerosol optical depth and its fine fraction. A 3-wavelength nephelometer and particle soot absorption photometer assessed the scattering and absorption coefficients. Two impactors segregated the submicron (Dp < 1 µm) particles from the total (Dp < 10 µm) enabling us to calculate the sub-micron scattering and absorption fractions. The measured variables served to calculate the single scattering albedo and radiative forcing efficiency. All variables except the single scattering albedo making up the aerosol climatology for Puerto Rico had different means as function of the aerosol category at p < 0.05. For the period 2005–2010, the largest means ±95 % confidence interval of the scattering coefficient (53 ± 4 Mm−1), absorption coefficient (1.8 ± 0.16 Mm−1), and optical depth (0.29 ± 0.03), suggested African dust is the main contributor to the columnar and surface aerosol loading in summer. About two thirds (63 %) of the absorption in African dust was due to the coarse mode and about one third due to the fine mode. In volcanic ash, fine aerosols contributed 60 % of the absorption while coarse contributed 40 %. Overall, the coarse and fine modes accounted for ~ 80 % and 20 % of the total scattering. The African dust load was 3.5 times the load of clean marine, 1.9 times greater than the clean marine with higher sea salt content, and 1.7 times greater than volcanic ash. African dust caused 50 % more cooling than that volcanic ash at the top of the atmosphere and 50 % more heating than that of volcanic ash within the marine boundary layer (MBL).;

publication date

  • August 7, 2018

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  • green

Date in CU Experts

  • July 8, 2023 4:57 AM

Full Author List

  • Rivera H; Ogren JA; Andrews E; Mayol-Bracero OL

author count

  • 4

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