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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
08 Dec 2016
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of this manuscript was accepted for the journal Atmospheric Measurement Techniques (AMT) and is expected to appear here in due course.
On Aethalometer measurement uncertainties and multiple scattering enhancement in the Arctic
John Backman1, Lauren Schmeisser2,a, Aki Virkkula1, John A. Ogren2,3, Eija Asmi1, Sandra Starkweather2,3, Sangeeta Sharma4, Konstantinos Eleftheriadis5, Taneil Uttal3, Anne Jefferson2, Michael Bergin6, and Alexander Makshtas7 1Finnish Meteorological Institute, Atmospheric Composition Research, Helsinki, Finland
2University of Colorado, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, Boulder, USA
3National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, USA
4Environment and Climate Change Canada, Climate Research Division, Downsview , Canada
5Institute of Nuclear and Radiological Science & Technology, Energy & Safety, Environmental Radioactivity Laboratory, NCSR "Demokritos", Athens, Greece
6Duke University, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Durham, USA
7Russian Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring, Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, St. Petersburg, Russia
aNow at University of Washington, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Seattle, USA
Abstract. Several types of filter-based instruments are used to estimate aerosol light absorption coefficients.Two significant results are presented based on Aethalometer measurements at six Arctic station from 2012–2014. First, an alternative method of post-processing the Aethalometer data is presented which reduces measurement noise and lowers the detection limit of the instrument more effectively than boxcar averaging. The biggest benefit of this approach can be achieved if instrument drift is minimized. Moreover, by using an attenuation threshold criterion for data post-processing, the relative uncertainty from the electronic noise the instrument is kept constant. This approach results in a time series with a variable collection time (Δt), but with a constant relative uncertainty with regard to electronic noise in the instrument. An additional advantage of this method is that the detection limit of the instrument will be lowered at small aerosol concentrations at the expense of temporal resolution, whereas there is little to no loss in temporal resolution at high aerosol concentrations (>2.1–6.7 Mm−1 as measured by the Aethalometers). At high aerosol concentrations, minimizing the detection limit of the instrument is less critical. Second, utilizing co-located reference methods of aerosol absorption, a multiple cattering enhancement factor (Cref) of 3.10 specific to low elevation Arctic stations is found. Cref is a fundamental part of most of the Aethalometer corrections available in literature, and this is the first time a Cref value has been obtained for the Arctic.

Citation: Backman, J., Schmeisser, L., Virkkula, A., Ogren, J. A., Asmi, E., Starkweather, S., Sharma, S., Eleftheriadis, K., Uttal, T., Jefferson, A., Bergin, M., and Makshtas, A.: On Aethalometer measurement uncertainties and multiple scattering enhancement in the Arctic, Atmos. Meas. Tech. Discuss.,, in review, 2016.
John Backman et al.
John Backman et al.


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Short summary
Light absorption by aerosol particles is of climatic importance. A widely used means to measure aerosol light absorption is a filter-based measurement technique. In remote areas, such as the Arctic, filter-based instruments operate close to their detection limit. The study present how a lower detection limit can be achieved for one such instrument; the Aethalometer. In addition, the Aethalometer is compared to similar instruments thus improving measurement inter-comparability in the Arctic.
Light absorption by aerosol particles is of climatic importance. A widely used means to measure...