National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2022

North Atlantic Ocean SST-gradient-driven variations in aerosol evolution along Lagrangian cold-air outbreak trajectories

Sanchez, K.J., B. Zhang, H. Liu, M.D. Brown, E.C. Crosbie, F. Gallo, J.W. Hair, C.A. Hostetler, C.E. Jordan, C.E. Robinson, A.J. Scarino, T.J. Shingler, M.A. Shook, K.L. Thornhill, E.B. Wiggins, E.L. Winstead, L.D. Ziemba, G. Saliba, S.L. Lewis, L.M. Russell, P.K. Quinn, T.S. Bates, J. Porter, T.G. Bell, P. Gaube, E.S. Saltzman, M.J. Behrenfeld, and R.H. Moore

Atmos. Chem. Phys., 22, 2795–2815, doi: 10.5194/acp-22-2795-2022, View online (open access) (2022)

Atmospheric marine particle concentrations impact cloud properties, which strongly impact the amount of solar radiation reflected back into space or absorbed by the ocean surface. While satellites can provide a snapshot of current conditions at the overpass time, models are necessary to simulate temporal variations in both particle and cloud properties. However, poor model accuracy limits the reliability with which these tools can be used to predict future climate. Here, we leverage the comprehensive ocean ecosystem and atmospheric aerosol–cloud dataset obtained during the third deployment of the North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study (NAAMES3). Airborne and ship-based measurements were collected in and around a cold-air outbreak during a 3 d (where d stands for day) intensive operations period from 17–19 September 2017. Cold-air outbreaks are of keen interest for model validation because they are challenging to accurately simulate, which is due, in part, to the numerous feedbacks and sub-grid-scale processes that influence aerosol and cloud evolution. The NAAMES observations are particularly valuable because the flight plans were tailored to lie along Lagrangian trajectories, making it possible to spatiotemporally connect upwind and downwind measurements with the state-of-the-art FLEXible PARTicle (FLEXPART) Lagrangian particle dispersion model and then calculate a rate of change in particle properties. Initial aerosol conditions spanning an east–west, closed-cell-to-clear-air transition region of the cold-air outbreak indicate similar particle concentrations and properties. However, despite the similarities in the aerosol fields, the cloud properties downwind of each region evolved quite differently. One trajectory carried particles through a cold-air outbreak, resulting in a decrease in accumulation mode particle concentration (−42 %) and cloud droplet concentrations, while the other remained outside of the cold-air outbreak and experienced an increase in accumulation mode particle concentrations (+62 %). The variable meteorological conditions between these two adjacent trajectories result from differences in the local sea surface temperature in the Labrador Current and surrounding waters, altering the stability of the marine atmospheric boundary layer. Further comparisons of historical satellite observations indicate that the observed pattern occurs annually in the region, making it an ideal location for future airborne Lagrangian studies tracking the evolution of aerosols and clouds over time under cold-air outbreak conditions.

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