Size resolved measurements of springtime aerosol particles over the northern South China Sea

Samuel A. Atwood, Jeffrey S. Reid, Sonia M. Kreidenweis, Steven S. Cliff, Yongjing Zhao, Neng Huei Lin, Si Chee Tsay, Yu Chi Chu, Douglas L. Westphal

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25 Scopus citations


Large sources of aerosol particles and their precursors are ubiquitous in East Asia. Such sources are known to impact the South China Sea (henceforth SCS), a sometimes heavily polluted region that has been suggested as particularly vulnerable to climate change. To help elucidate springtime aerosol transport into the SCS, an intensive study was performed on the remote Dongsha (aka Pratas) Islands Atoll in spring 2010. As part of this deployment, a Davis Rotating-drum Uniform size-cut Monitor (DRUM) cascade impactor was deployed to collect size-resolved aerosol samples at the surface that were analyzed by X-ray fluorescence for concentrations of selected elements. HYSPLIT backtrajectories indicated that the transport of aerosol observed at the surface at Dongsha was occurring primarily from regions generally to the north and east. This observation was consistent with the apparent persistence of pollution and dust aerosol, along with sea salt, in the ground-based dataset. In contrast to the sea-level observations, modeled aerosol transport suggested that the westerly flow aloft (~700hPa) transported smoke-laden air toward the site from regions from the south and west. Measured aerosol optical depth at the site was highest during time periods of modeled heavy smoke loadings aloft. These periods did not coincide with elevated aerosol concentrations at the surface, although the model suggested sporadic mixing of this free-tropospheric aerosol to the surface over the SCS. A biomass burning signature was not clearly identified in the surface aerosol composition data, consistent with this aerosol type remaining primarily aloft and not mixing strongly to the surface during the study. Significant vertical wind shear in the region also supports the idea that different source regions lead to varying aerosol impacts in different vertical layers, and suggests the potential for considerable vertical inhomogeneity in the SCS aerosol environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-143
Number of pages10
JournalAtmospheric Environment
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • Aerosol vertical distributions
  • Asian aerosol
  • Biomass burning aerosol
  • Dust aerosol
  • Marine aerosol


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