Arctic warming by abundant fine sea salt aerosols from blowing snow

The Arctic warms nearly four times faster than the global average, and aerosols play an increasingly important role in Arctic climate change. In the Arctic, sea salt is a major aerosol component in terms of mass concentration during winter and spring. However, the mechanisms of sea salt aerosol production remain unclear. Sea salt aerosols are typically thought to be relatively large in size but low in number concentration, implying that their influence on cloud condensation nuclei population and cloud properties is generally minor. Here we present observational evidence of abundant sea salt aerosol production from blowing snow in the central Arctic. Blowing snow was observed more than 20% of the time from November to April. The sublimation of blowing snow generates high concentrations of fine-mode sea salt aerosol (diameter below 300 nm), enhancing cloud condensation nuclei concentrations up to tenfold above background levels. Using a global chemical transport model, we estimate that from November to April north of 70° N, sea salt aerosol produced from blowing snow accounts for about 27.6% of the total particle number, and the sea salt aerosol increases the longwave emissivity of clouds, leading to a calculated surface warming of +2.30 W m−2 under cloudy sky conditions.


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Authors: Gong, Xianda, Zhang, Jiaoshi, Croft, Betty, Yang, Xin ORCIDORCID record for Xin Yang, Frey, Markus M. ORCIDORCID record for Markus M. Frey, Bergner, Nora, Chang, Rachel Y.-W., Creamean, Jessie M., Kuang, Chongai, Martin, Randall V., Ranjithkumar, Ananth, Sedlacek, Arthur J., Uin, Janek, Willmes, Sascha, Zawadowicz, Maria A., Pierce, Jeffrey R., Shupe, Matthew D., Schmale, Julia, Wang, Jian

On this site: Ananth Ranjithkumar, Markus Frey, Xin Yang
4 September, 2023
Nature Geoscience
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