National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2023

Modelling wintertime sea-spray aerosols under Arctic haze conditions

Ioannidis, E., K.S. Law, J.-C. Raut, L. Marelle, T. Onishi, R.M. Kirpes, L.M. Upchurch, T. Tuch, A. Wiedensohler, A. Massling, H. Skov, P.K. Quinn, and K.A. Pratt

Atmos. Chem. Phys., 23, 5641–5678, doi: 10.5194/acp-23-5641-2023, View open access article online at Copernicus (external link) (2023)

Anthropogenic and natural emissions contribute to enhanced concentrations of aerosols in the Arctic winter and early spring, with most attention being paid to anthropogenic aerosols that contribute to so-called Arctic haze. Less-well-studied wintertime sea-spray aerosols (SSAs) under Arctic haze conditions are the focus of this study, since they can make an important contribution to wintertime Arctic aerosol abundances. Analysis of field campaign data shows evidence for enhanced local sources of SSAs, including marine organics at Utqiaġvik (formerly known as Barrow) in northern Alaska, United States, during winter 2014. Models tend to underestimate sub-micron SSAs and overestimate super-micron SSAs in the Arctic during winter, including the base version of the Weather Research Forecast coupled with Chemistry (WRF-Chem) model used here, which includes a widely used SSA source function based on Gong et al. (1997). Quasi-hemispheric simulations for winter 2014 including updated wind speed and sea-surface temperature (SST) SSA emission dependencies and sources of marine sea-salt organics and sea-salt sulfate lead to significantly improved model performance compared to observations at remote Arctic sites, notably for coarse-mode sodium and chloride, which are reduced. The improved model also simulates more realistic contributions of SSAs to inorganic aerosols at different sites, ranging from 20 %–93 % in the observations. Two-thirds of the improved model performance is from the inclusion of the dependence on SSTs. The simulation of nitrate aerosols is also improved due to less heterogeneous uptake of nitric acid on SSAs in the coarse mode and related increases in fine-mode nitrate. This highlights the importance of interactions between natural SSAs and inorganic anthropogenic aerosols that contribute to Arctic haze. Simulation of organic aerosols and the fraction of sea-salt sulfate are also improved compared to observations. However, the model underestimates episodes with elevated observed concentrations of SSA components and sub-micron non-sea-salt sulfate at some Arctic sites, notably at Utqiaġvik. Possible reasons are explored in higher-resolution runs over northern Alaska for periods corresponding to the Utqiaġvik field campaign in January and February 2014. The addition of a local source of sea-salt marine organics, based on the campaign data, increases modelled organic aerosols over northern Alaska. However, comparison with previous available data suggests that local natural sources from open leads, as well as local anthropogenic sources, are underestimated in the model. Missing local anthropogenic sources may also explain the low modelled (sub-micron) non-sea-salt sulfate at Utqiaġvik. The introduction of a higher wind speed dependence for sub-micron SSA emissions, also based on Arctic data, reduces biases in modelled sub-micron SSAs, while sea-ice fractions, including open leads, are shown to be an important factor controlling modelled super-micron, rather than sub-micron, SSAs over the north coast of Alaska. The regional results presented here show that modelled SSAs are more sensitive to wind speed dependence but that realistic modelling of sea-ice distributions is needed for the simulation of local SSAs, including marine organics. This study supports findings from the Utqiaġvik field campaign that open leads are the primary source of fresh and aged SSAs, including marine organic aerosols, during wintertime at Utqiaġvik; these findings do not suggest an influence from blowing snow and frost flowers. To improve model simulations of Arctic wintertime aerosols, new field data on processes that influence wintertime SSA production, in particular for fine-mode aerosols, are needed as is improved understanding about possible local anthropogenic sources.

Feature Publications | Outstanding Scientific Publications

Contact Sandra Bigley |