Airborne sampling of aerosol particles: Comparison between surface sampling at Christmas Island and P-3 sampling during PEM-Tropics B

Jack E. Dibb, Robert W. Talbot, Garry Seid, Carolyn Jordan, Eric Scheuer, Elliot Atlas, Nicola J. Blake, Donald R. Blake

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Bulk aerosol sampling of soluble ionic compounds from the NASA Wallops Island P-3 aircraft and a tower on Christmas Island during PEM-Tropics B provides an opportunity to assess the magnitude of particle losses in the University of New Hampshire airborne bulk aerosol sampling system. We find that most aerosol-associated ions decrease strongly with height above the sea surface, making direct comparisons between mixing ratios at 30 m on the tower and the lowest flight level of the P-3 (150 m) open to interpretation. Theoretical considerations suggest that vertical gradients of sea-salt aerosol particles should show exponential decreases with height. Observed gradients of Na+ and Mg2+, combining the tower observations with P-3 samples collected below 1 km, are well described by exponential decreases (r values of 0.88 and 0.87, respectively), though the curve fit underestimates average mixing ratios at the surface by 25%. Cascade impactor samples collected on the tower show that >99% of the Na+ and Mg2+ mass is on supermicron particles, 65% is in the 1-6 micron range, and just 20% resides on particles with diameters larger than 9 microns. These results indicate that our airborne aerosol sampling probes must be passing particles up to at least 6 microns with high efficiency. We also observed that nss SO2-4 and NH+4, which are dominantly on accumulation mode particles, tended to decrease between 150 and 1000 m, but they were often considerably higher at the lowest P-3 sampling altitudes than at the tower. This finding is presently not well understood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)PEM 2-1 PEM 2-17
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 27 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Airborne aerosol sampling
  • Inlet passing efficiency
  • PEM Tropics B
  • Tropical Pacific

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


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