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Exploring the inorganic composition of the Asian Tropopause Aerosol Layer using...

Vernier, H., N. Rastogi, H. Liu, A. Pandit, K. Bedka, A. Patel, M. V. Ratnam, B. S. Kumar, B. Zhang, H. Gadhavi, F. Wienhold, G. Berthet, and J. Vernier (2022), Exploring the inorganic composition of the Asian Tropopause Aerosol Layer using medium-duration balloon flights, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 22, 12675-12694, doi:10.5194/acp-22-12675-2022.

Satellite observations have revealed an enhanced aerosol layer near the tropopause over Asia during the summer monsoon, called the “Asian Tropopause Aerosol Layer” (ATAL). In this work, aerosol particles in the ATAL were collected with a balloon-borne impactor near the tropopause region over India, using extended duration balloon flights, in summer 2017 and winter 2018. The chemical composition of these particles was further investigated by quantitative analysis using offline ion chromatography. Nitrate (NO3−) and nitrite (NO2-) were found to be the dominant ions in the collected aerosols with values ranging between 87 and 343 ng m-3 at STP (standard temperature and pressure) during the summer campaign. In contrast, sulfate (SO4 2−) levels were found to be above the detection limit (> 10 ng m−3 at STP) only in winter. In addition, we determined the origin of the air masses sampled during the flights using the analysis of back trajectories as well as a convective proxy from cloud-top temperature fields derived from a geostationary satellite. The results obtained from this analysis were put into the context of large-scale transport and aerosol distribution using GEOS-Chem chemical transport model simulations. The first flight in summer 2017 which sampled an air mass within the Asian monsoon anticyclone (AMA), influenced by convection over Western China, was associated with particle size diameters from 0.05 to 0.15 µm. In contrast, the second flight sampled air masses at the edge of the AMA associated with a larger particle size radius (> 2 µm) with a higher NO2- concentration. The sampled air masses in winter 2018 were likely affected by smoke from the Pacific Northwest fire event in Canada, which occurred 7 months before our campaign, associated with concentration enhancements of SO4 2− and Ca2+. Overall, our results suggest that nitrogen-containing particles represent a large fraction of cloud-free and in-cloud aerosols populating the ATAL, which is partially in agreement with the results from aircraft measurements during the StratoClim (Stratospheric and upper tropospheric processes for better climate predictions) campaign. The exact nature of those particles is still unknown, but their coincidences with subvisible cirrus clouds and their sizes suggest nitric acid trihydrate (NAT) as a possible candidate, as NAT has already been observed in the tropical upper troposphere and lower stratosphere in other studies. Furthermore, GEOS-Chem model simulations indicate that lightning NOx emissions could have significantly impacted the production of nitrate aerosols sampled during the summer of 2017.

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Research Program: 
Modeling Analysis and Prediction Program (MAP)
Atmospheric Composition Modeling and Analysis Program (ACMAP)
Upper Atmosphere Research Program (UARP)