Contribution of feldspar and marine organic aerosols to global ice nucleating particle concentrations

Jesús Vergara-Temprado, Benjamin J. Murray, Theodore W. Wilson, Daniel O'Sullivan, Jo Browse, Kirsty J. Pringle, Karin Ardon-Dryer, Allan K. Bertram, Susannah M. Burrows, Darius Ceburnis, Paul J. Demott, Ryan H. Mason, Colin D. O'Dowd, Matteo Rinaldi, Ken S. Carslaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


Ice-nucleating particles (INPs) are known to affect the amount of ice in mixed-phase clouds, thereby influencing many of their properties. The atmospheric INP concentration changes by orders of magnitude from terrestrial to marine environments, which typically contain much lower concentrations. Many modelling studies use parameterizations for heterogeneous ice nucleation and cloud ice processes that do not account for this difference because they were developed based on INP measurements made predominantly in terrestrial environments without considering the aerosol composition. Errors in the assumed INP concentration will influence the simulated amount of ice in mixed-phase clouds, leading to errors in top-of-atmosphere radiative flux and ultimately the climate sensitivity of the model. Here we develop a global model of INP concentrations relevant for mixed-phase clouds based on laboratory and field measurements of ice nucleation by K-feldspar (an ice-active component of desert dust) and marine organic aerosols (from sea spray). The simulated global distribution of INP concentrations based on these two species agrees much better with currently available ambient measurements than when INP concentrations are assumed to depend only on temperature or particle size. Underestimation of INP concentrations in some terrestrial locations may be due to the neglect of INPs from other terrestrial sources. Our model indicates that, on a monthly average basis, desert dusts dominate the contribution to the INP population over much of the world, but marine organics become increasingly important over remote oceans and they dominate over the Southern Ocean. However, day-to-day variability is important. Because desert dust aerosol tends to be sporadic, marine organic aerosols dominate the INP population on many days per month over much of the mid- and high-latitude Northern Hemisphere. This study advances our understanding of which aerosol species need to be included in order to adequately describe the global and regional distribution of INPs in models, which will guide ice nucleation researchers on where to focus future laboratory and field work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3637-3658
Number of pages22
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 15 2017


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