Aerosol size distributions measured at the South Pole during ISCAT

Jongsup Park, Hiromu Sakurai, Karl Vollmers, Peter H McMurry

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Aerosol physical size distributions were measured at the South Pole during December 1998 and December 2000 as part of the ISCAT program. The size ranges covered by these measurements were 3 to 250nm in 1998 and 3nm-2μm in 2000. "Typical background aerosols" measured during both periods were similar. Total aerosol number concentrations ranged from 100 to 300cm -3 with occasional spikes as high as 10,000cm-3. We believe the spikes were due to local emissions. The number mean size of background aerosols ranged from 50 to 70nm, and total aerosol surface area concentrations were 2.8±0.4μm2 cm-3. Aerosols measured in December 2000 were cleanly separated into "low volume" and "high volume" periods. During the low-volume periods, volume concentrations were 0.07±0.01μm3cm-3 with a volume mean diameter of 0.27±0.05μm, and these volume concentrations were mostly within a factor two of values that would be expected based on reconstructed mass from particulate chemical composition. Volume concentrations during the "high volume" periods exceed levels that can be explained from aerosol chemistry and calculated light-scattering coefficients exceed values that have been recorded historically. We have been unable to identify why this might have occurred. We observed one 4-h event on December 15, 2000 during which nanoparticles grew slowly from ∼3.0 to 3.6nm.We believe these particles had recently been formed by nucleation. Because this occurred during a period of stagnation, it is possible that this event was associated with local emissions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5493-5500
Number of pages8
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number32
StatePublished - Oct 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by Grant no. OPP-9809962 from the National Science Foundation. We thank Marty Buhr and David Tanner for operating our equipment during ISCAT 1998 and David Tanner and Greg Huey for operating our equipment during ISCAT 2000. Betsy Andrews of NOAA provided us with historical data on condensation nuclei concentrations and light scattering coefficients measured at the South Pole. Eric Sandberg and Paulene Roberts, who operated the NOAA instruments during December 2000, provided helpful responses to our inquires regarding possible reasons for “low” and “high” volume concentration events.


  • Aerosol Size Distributions
  • Atmospheric Aerosol
  • Particle growth rate
  • South Pole


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