On the representativeness of coastal aerosol studies to open ocean studies: Mace Head – a case study
A unique opportunity arose during the MAP project to compare open ocean aerosol measurements with those undertaken at the Mace Head Global Atmosphere Watch Station, a station used for decades for aerosol process research and long-term monitoring. The objective of the present study is to demonstrate that the key aerosol features and processes observed at Mace Head are characteristic of the open ocean, while acknowledging and allowing for spatial and temporal gradients. Measurements were conducted for a 5-week period at Mace Head and offshore, on the Research Vessel Celtic Explorer, in generally similar marine air masses, albeit not in connected-flow scenarios. The results of the study indicate, in terms of aerosol number size distribution, higher nucleation mode particle concentrations at Mace Head than offshore, pointing to a strong coastal source of new particles that is not representative of the open ocean. The Aitken mode exhibited a large degree of similarity, with no systematic differences between Mace Head and the open ocean, while the accumulation mode showed averagely 35% higher concentrations at Mace Head. The higher accumulation mode concentration can be attributed equally to cloud processing and to a coastal enhancement in concentration. Chemical analysis showed similar or even higher offshore concentrations for dominant species, such as nss-SO(4)(-2), WSOC, WIOC and MSA. Sea salt concentration differences determined a 40% higher supermicron mass at Mace Head, although this difference can be attributed to a higher wind speed at Mace Head during the comparison period. Moreover, the relative chemical composition as a function of size illustrated remarkable similarity. While differences to varying degrees were observed between offshore and coastal measurements, no convincing evidence was found of local coastal effects, apart from nucleation mode aerosol, thus confirming the integrity of previously reported marine aerosol characterisation studies at Mace Head.