Cloud processing is known to generate aerosol species such as sulfate and secondary organic aerosol, yet there is a scarcity of airborne data to examine this issue. The NASA Aerosol Cloud meTeorology Interactions oVer the western ATlantic Experiment (ACTIVATE) was designed to build an unprecedented dataset relevant to aerosol-cloud interactions with two coordinated aircraft over the northwestern Atlantic, with aerosol mass spectrometer data used from four deployments between 2020-2021 to contrast aerosol composition below, in (using a counterflow virtual impactor) and above boundary layer clouds. Consistent features in all time periods of the deployments (January-March, May-June, August-September) include the mass fraction of organics and relative amount of oxygenated organics (m/z 44) relative to total organics (f44) increasing in droplet residuals relative to below and above cloud. Detailed analysis comparing data below and in cloud suggests a possible role for in-cloud aqueous processing in explaining such results; an intriguing aspect though requiring more attention is that only approximately a quarter of the cloud cases (29 of 110) showed higher organic mass fractions either below or above cloud. Of those 29 cases, the majority (25) showed higher organic mass fraction below cloud base where the cloud processing signature is presumably more evident as compared to above cloud. These results are consistent with the few past studies analyzing droplet residuals pointing to higher organic enrichment than in adjacent cloud-free areas. The data findings are important as other datasets (e.g., reanalysis) suggest that sulfate is both more abundant than organics (in contrast to this work) and more closely related to drop number concentrations in the winter when aerosol-cloud interactions are strongest. Here we show that organics are more abundant than sulfate in the droplet residuals and that aerosol interaction with clouds potentially decreases particle hygroscopicity due to the increase in organic:sulfate ratio for droplet residuals relative to surrounding cloud-free air. These results are important in light of the growing importance of organics over the northwestern Atlantic in recent decades relative to sulfate owing to the success of regulatory activity over the eastern United States to cut sulfur dioxide emissions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Atmospheric Science