In situ measurements of desert dust particles above the western Mediterranean Sea with the balloon-borne Light Optical Aerosol Counter/sizer (LOAC) during the ChArMEx campaign of summer 2013

Renard, Jean-Baptiste ; Dulac, François ; Durand, Pierre ; Bourgeois, Quentin ; Denjean, Cyrielle ; Vignelles, Damien ; Couté, Benoit ; Jeannot, Matthieu ; Verdier, Nicolas ; Mallet, Marc

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<p align="justify">Mineral dust from arid areas is a major component of global aerosol and has strong interactions with climate and biogeochemistry. As part of the Chemistry-Aerosol Mediterranean Experiment (ChArMEx) to investigate atmospheric chemistry and its impacts in the Mediterranean region, an intensive field campaign was performed from mid-June to early August 2013 in the western basin including in situ balloon-borne aerosol measurements with the light optical aerosol counter (LOAC). LOAC is a counter/sizer that provides the aerosol concentrations in 19 size classes between 0.2 and 100 µm, and an indication of the nature of the particles based on dual-angle scattering measurements. A total of 27 LOAC flights were conducted mainly from Minorca Island (Balearic Islands, Spain) but also from Ile du Levant off Hyères city (SE France) under 17 light dilatable balloons (meteorological sounding balloons) and 10 boundary layer pressurised balloons (quasi-Lagrangian balloons). The purpose was to document the vertical extent of the plume and the time evolution of the concentrations at constant altitude (air density) by in situ observations. LOAC measurements are in agreement with ground-based measurements (lidar, photometer), aircraft measurements (counters), and satellite measurements (CALIOP) in the case of fair spatial and temporal coincidences. LOAC has often detected three modes in the dust particle volume size distributions fitted by lognormal laws at roughly 0.2, 4 and 30 µm in modal diameter. Thanks to the high sensitivity of LOAC, particles larger than 40 µm were observed, with concentrations up to about 10−4 cm−3. Such large particles were lifted several days before and their persistence after transport over long distances is in conflict with calculations of dust sedimentation. We did not observe any significant evolution of the size distribution during the transport from quasi-Lagrangian flights, even for the longest ones ( ∼  1 day). Finally, the presence of charged particles is inferred from the LOAC measurements and we speculate that electrical forces might counteract gravitational settling of the coarse particles.</p>
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