1NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, CO, USA
2CIRES, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
3Science Systems and Applications, Inc., Hampton, VA, USA
4NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, USA
Abstract. Between June 2006 and September 2009, an instrumented light aircraft measured over 400 vertical profiles of aerosol and trace gas properties over eastern and central Illinois. The primary objectives of this program were to (1) measure the in situ aerosol properties and determine their vertical and temporal variability and (2) relate these aircraft measurements to concurrent surface and satellite measurements. The primary profile location was within 15 km of the NOAA/ESRL surface aerosol monitoring station near Bondville, Illinois. Identical instruments at the surface and on the aircraft ensured that the data from both platforms would be directly comparable and permitted a determination of how representative surface aerosol properties were of the lower column. Aircraft profiles were also conducted occasionally at two other nearby locations to increase the frequency of A-Train satellite underflights for the purpose of comparing in situ and satellite-retrieved aerosol data. Measurements of aerosol properties conducted at low relative humidity over the Bondville site compare well with the analogous surface aerosol data and do not indicate any major sampling issues or that the aerosol is radically different at the surface compared with the lowest flyby altitude of ~ 240 m above ground level. Statistical analyses of the in situ vertical profile data indicate that aerosol light scattering and absorption (related to aerosol amount) decreases substantially with increasing altitude. Parameters related to the nature of the aerosol (e.g., single-scattering albedo, Ångström exponent, etc.), however, are relatively constant throughout the mixed layer, and do not vary as much as the aerosol amount throughout the profile. While individual profiles often showed more variability, the median in situ single-scattering albedo was 0.93–0.95 for all sampled altitudes. Several parameters (e.g., submicrometer scattering fraction, hemispheric backscattering fraction, and scattering Ångström exponent) suggest that the fraction of smaller particles in the aerosol is larger near the surface than at high altitudes. The observed dependence of scattering on size, wavelength, angular integration range, and relative humidity, together with the spectral dependence of absorption, show that the aerosol at higher altitudes is larger, less hygroscopic, and more strongly absorbing at shorter wavelengths, suggesting an increased contribution from dust or organic aerosols. The aerosol profiles show significant differences among seasons. The largest amounts of aerosol (as determined by median light extinction profile measurements) throughout most of the sampled column were observed during summer, with the lowest amounts in the winter and intermediate values in the spring and fall. The highest three profile levels (3.1, 3.7, 4.6 km), however, showed larger median extinction values in the spring, which could reflect long-range transport of dust or smoke aerosols. The aerosols in the mixed layer were darkest (i.e., lowest single-scattering albedo) in the fall, in agreement with surface measurements at Bondville and other continental sites in the US. In situ profiles of aerosol radiative forcing efficiency showed little seasonal or vertical variability. Underflights of the CALIPSO satellite show reasonable agreement in a majority of retrieved profiles between aircraft-measured extinction at 532 nm (adjusted to ambient relative humidity) and CALIPSO-retrieved extinction, and suggest that routine aircraft profiling programs can be used to better understand and validate satellite retrieval algorithms. CALIPSO tended to overestimate the aerosol extinction at this location in some boundary layer flight segments when scattered or broken clouds were present, which could be related to problems with CALIPSO cloud screening methods. The in situ aircraft-collected aerosol data suggest extinction thresholds for the likelihood of aerosol layers being detected by the CALIOP lidar. In this study, aerosol layers with light extinction (532 nm) values > 50 Mm−1 were detected by CALIPSO ~ 95% of the time, while aerosol layers with extinction values lower than 10 Mm−1 had a detection efficiency of < 2%. For all collocated comparison cases, a 50% probability of detection falls at an in situ extinction level of 20–25 Mm−1. These statistical data offer guidance as to the likelihood of CALIPSO's ability to retrieve aerosol extinction at various locations around the globe.