Black carbon aerosol size in snow

Schwarz, J., R. Gao, A. Perring, R. Spackman, and D. Fahey (2013), Black carbon aerosol size in snow, SCIENTIFIC REPORTS, 3, 1356-1460, doi:10.1038/srep01356.

The effect of anthropogenic black carbon (BC) aerosol on snow is of enduring interest due to its consequences for climate forcing. Until now, too little attention has been focused on BC’s size in snow, an important parameter affecting BC light absorption in snow. Here we present first observations of this parameter, revealing that BC can be shifted to larger sizes in snow than are typically seen in the atmosphere, in part due to the processes associated with BC removal from the atmosphere. Mie theory analysis indicates a corresponding reduction in BC absorption in snow of 40%, making BC size in snow the dominant source of uncertainty in BC’s absorption properties for calculations of BC’s snow albedo climate forcing. The shift reduces estimated BC global mean snow forcing by 30%, and has scientific implications for our understanding of snow albedo and the processing of atmospheric BC aerosol in snowfall.

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Radiation Science Program (RSP)
Upper Atmosphere Research Program (UARP)