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Title: The Radiative Role of Free Tropospheric Aerosols and Marine Clouds over the Central North Atlantic

The scientific scope of the project was to exploit the unique location of the Pico Mountain Observatory (PMO) located in the summit caldera of the Pico Volcano in Pico Island in the Azores, for atmospheric studies. The observatory, located at 2225m a.s.l., typically samples free tropospheric aerosols laying above the marine low-level clouds and long-range transported from North America. The broad purpose of this research was to provide the scientific community with a better understanding of fundamental physical processes governing the effects of aerosols on radiative forcing and climate; with the ultimate goal of improving our abilities to understand past climate and to predict future changes through numerical models. The project was 'exploratory' in nature, with the plan to demonstrate the feasibility of deploying for the first time, an extensive aerosol research package at PMO. One of the primary activities was to test the deployment of these instruments at the site, to collect data during the 2012 summer season, and to further develop the infrastructure and the knowledge for performing novel research at PMO in follow-up longer-term aerosol-cloud studies. In the future, PMO could provide an elevated research outpost to support the renewed DOE effort in the Azores that wasmore » intensified in 2013 with the opening of the new sea-level ARM-DOE Eastern North Atlantic permanent facility at Graciosa Island. During the project period, extensive new data sets were collected for the planned 2012 season. Thanks to other synergistic activities and opportunities, data collection was then successfully extended to 2013 and 2014. Highlights of the scientific findings during this project include: a) biomass burning contribute significantly to the aerosol loading in the North Atlantic free troposphere; however, long-range transported black carbon concentrations decreased substantially in the last decade. b) Single black carbon particles – analyzed off-line at the electron microscope – were often very compacted, suggesting cloud processing and exhibiting different optical properties from fresh emissions. In addition, black carbon was found to be sometimes mixed with mineral dust, affecting its optical properties and potential forcing. c) Some aerosols collected at PMO acted as ice nuclei, potentially contributing to cirrus cloud formation during their transport in the upper free troposphere. Identified good ice nuclei were often mineral dust particles. d) The free tropospheric aerosols studied at PMO have relevance to low level marine clouds due, for example, to synoptic subsidence entraining free tropospheric aerosols into the marine boundary layer. This has potentially large consequences on cloud condensation nuclei concentrations and compositions in the marine boundary layer; therefore, having an effect on the marine stratus clouds, with potentially important repercussions on the radiative forcing. The scientific products of this project currently include contributions to two papers published in the Nature Publishing group (Nature Communications and Scientific Reports), one paper under revision for Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, one in review in Geophysical Research Letters and one recently submitted to Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussion. In addition, four manuscripts are in advanced state of preparation. Finally, twenty-eight presentations were given at international conferences, workshops and seminars.« less
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  1. Michigan Technological University
  2. University of Colorado at Boulder
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Michigan Tech. University
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
Contributing Orgs:
Michigan Technological University, University of Colorado at Boulder
Country of Publication:
United States
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES Aerosols, clouds, North Atlantic, Azores, Pico, Graciosa, Pico Mountain Observatory, ARM, Eastern North Atlantic (ENA), free troposphere, marine boundary layer, optical properties, black carbon, biomass burning, non methane hydrocarbons, radiative forcing, climate, ice nuclei, atmosphere, long range transport