Aircraft profiles of aerosol microphysics and optical properties over North America: Aerosol optical depth and its association with PM2.5 and water uptake



[1] Aerosol column optical depth (AOD) is related to the aerosol direct radiative effect and readily available as a satellite product. The mass of dry aerosol up to 2.5 μm aerodynamic, or PM2.5, is a common measure of surface aerosol pollution at selected regional sites. A link between these two parameters would provide a way to infer PM2.5 and its change over extensive regions observed by satellites. This requires determination of the response of aerosol dry mass to the widely variable influence of ambient humidity and its optical contribution to column AOD. During the INTEX-North America aircraft campaign, we obtained 72 profiles of visible aerosol light scattering up to 10 km and its response to water uptake. The ambient AODs determined from these measurements, and confirmed for three profiles near surface AERONET, were generally below 0.4 except in the presence of a humid boundary layer with high aerosol loading. The fraction of ambient AOD due to water uptake, Wf, was found to be 37 ± 15% (average and standard deviation). Boundary layer PM2.5 was estimated (PM2.5proxy) from low-altitude size distributions measured from the aircraft. Despite the large variety of vertical aerosol structure, the ambient AOD was found correlated with the PM2.5proxy with R2 = 0.77, after 4% of data with AOD > 0.8 for >90% RH were removed. Our results support the application of remote sensing to retrievals of surface PM2.5 mass. The wavelength dependence of ambient AOD was found to be less effective in stratifying the mass versus extinction relationship on the column integral basis than on a layer by layer basis.