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The lofting of Western Pacific regional aerosol by island thermodynamics as observed around Borneo

by N. H. Robinson, J. D. Allan, J. A. Trembath, P. D. Rosenberg, G. Allen, H. Coe
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics ()

Abstract

Vertical profiles of aerosol chemical composition, number concentration and size were measured throughout the lower troposphere of Borneo, a large tropical island in the western Pacific Ocean. Aerosol composition, size and number concentration measurements (using an Aerodyne Aerosol Mass Spectrometer, Passive Cavity Aerosol Spectrometer Probe and Condensation Particle Counter, respectively) were made both upwind and downwind of Borneo, as well as over the island itself, on board the UK BAe-146 research aircraft as part of the OP3 project. Two meteorological regimes were identified -one dominated by isolated terrestrial convection (ITC) which peaked in the afternoon, and the other characterised by more regionally active mesoscale convective systems (MCS). Upwind profiles show aerosol to be confined to a shallow marine boundary layer below 930 ± 10 hPa (∼760 m above sea level, a.s.l.). As this air mass advects over the island with the mean free troposphere synoptic flow during the ITC-dominated regime, it is convectively lofted above the terrestrial surface mixed layer to heights of between 945 ± 22 (∼630 m a.s.l.) and 740 ± 44 hPa (∼2740 m a.s.l.), consistent with a coupling between the synoptic steering level flow and island sea breeze circulations. Terrestrial aerosol was observed to be lofted into this higher layer through both moist convective uplift and transport through turbulent diurnal sea-breeze cells. At the peak of convective activity in the mid-afternoons, organic aerosol loadings in the lofted layer were observed to be substantially higher than in the morning (by a mean factor of three). This organic matter is dominated by secondary aerosol from processing of biogenic gas phase precursors. Aerosol number concentration profiles suggest formation of new particles aloft in the atmosphere. By the time the air mass reaches the west coast of the island, terrestrial aerosol is enhanced in the lofted layer. Such uplift of aerosol in Borneo is expected to increase aerosol lifetimes in the lower free troposphere downwind, as they are above the boundary layer and therefore less likely to be lost by wet or dry deposition. It is also likely to change the role they play in the semi-direct and direct aerosol effects. The long chain of islands extending from Malaysia to Australia may all similarly be expected to present an orographic barrier to low level mean flow. This would lead to significant transport of aerosol into the tropical free troposphere across the Western Pacific region.

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