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Keywords:

  • Arctic haze;
  • aerosol optical depth

[1] The Arctic climate is modulated, in part, by atmospheric aerosols that affect the distribution of radiant energy passing through the atmosphere. Aerosols affect the surface-atmosphere radiation balance directly through interactions with solar and terrestrial radiation and indirectly through interactions with cloud particles. Better quantification of the radiative forcing by different types of aerosol is needed to improve predictions of future climate. During April 2009, the airborne campaign Pan-Arctic Measurements and Arctic Regional Climate Model Inter-comparison Project (PAM-ARCMIP) was conducted. The mission was organized by Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research of Germany and utilized their research aircraft, Polar-5. The goal was to obtain a snapshot of surface and atmospheric conditions over the central Arctic prior to the onset of the melt season. Characterizing aerosols was one objective of the campaign. Standard Sun photometric procedures were adopted to quantify aerosol optical depth AOD, providing a three-dimensional view of the aerosol, which was primarily haze from anthropogenic sources. Independent, in situ measurements of particle size distribution and light extinction, derived from airborne lidar, are used to corroborate inferences made using the AOD results. During April 2009, from the European to the Alaskan Arctic, from sub-Arctic latitudes to near the pole, the atmosphere was variably hazy with total column AOD at 500 nm ranging from ∼0.12 to >0.35, values that are anomalously high compared with previous years. The haze, transported primarily from Eurasian industrial regions, was concentrated within and just above the surface-based temperature inversion layer. Extinction, as measured using an onboard lidar system, was also greatest at low levels, where particles tended to be slightly larger than at upper levels. Black carbon (BC) (soot) was observed at all levels sampled, but at moderate to low concentrations compared with historical records. BC was highest near the North Pole, suggesting there had been an accumulation of soot within the Arctic vortex. Few, optically thick elevated aerosol layers were observed along the flight track, although independent lidar observations reveal evidence of the passage of volcanic plumes, which may have contributed to abnormally high values of AOD above 4 km. Enhanced opacity at higher altitudes during the campaign is attributed to an accumulation of industrial pollutants in the upper troposphere in combination with volcanic aerosol resulting from the March–April 2009 eruptions of Mount Redoubt in Alaska. The presence of Arctic haze during April 2009 is estimated to have reduced the net shortwave irradiance by ∼2–5 W m−2, resulting in a slight cooling of the surface.