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Towards improved measurements of airborne black carbon in the arctic

Towards improved measurements of airborne black carbon in the arctic

A new method to process black carbon measurement data improves the detection limit of a widely used instrument. Measurement stations where black carbon concentrations are low, such as in the arctic, will benefit the most from the newly introduced method.

A new method to process atmospheric measurements of black carbon was recently published. This new method will improve the detection limit of a widely used black carbon measuring instrument. The greatest benefit of this new method is for instruments that experience low concentrations of atmospheric black carbon, such as in the arctic.  This new method will change the time resolution of the instrument when needed in order to more accurately determine the black carbon concentration. Improving the detection limit is desirable since black carbon concentration can at times be low, however, not insignificant. This method was applied to measurement data for six arctic stations and compared with co-located measurement equipment.

Small particles that are airborne do not only impact human health and wellbeing, but also the atmosphere and thus also the climate. These airborne particles, called aerosols, are found throughout the atmosphere. Black carbon aerosols absorb the sun's radiation and turns it into heat. Even small amounts of black carbon in snow or ice can make the snow melt faster; because black carbon will smear pristine snow. Since black carbon in snow originates from the atmosphere, atmospheric measurements of black carbon are of particular importance.

One particularly potent climate perturbing agent is black carbon which originates from various combustion processes. There are natural sources of black carbon aerosols, but much of them can be attributed to human activity such as from industry, combustion of fossil fuels, residential burning, slash-and-burn etc.

More information:

Researcher John Backman,

Backman, J., Schmeisser, L., Virkkula, A., Ogren, J. A., Asmi, E., Starkweather, S., Sharma, S., Eleftheriadis, K., Uttal, T., Jefferson, A., Bergin, M., Makshtas, A., Tunved, P., and Fiebig, M.: On Aethalometer measurement uncertainties and an instrument correction factor for the Arctic, Atmos. Meas. Tech., 10, 5039-5062,, 2017.





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