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Journal Article

Complex refractive indices and single-scattering albedo of global dust aerosols in the shortwave spectrum and relationship to size and iron content


Andreae,  Meinrat O.
Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Di Biagio, C., Formenti, P., Balkanski, Y., Caponi, L., Cazaunau, M., Pangui, E., et al. (2019). Complex refractive indices and single-scattering albedo of global dust aerosols in the shortwave spectrum and relationship to size and iron content. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 19(24), 15503-15531. doi:10.5194/acp-19-15503-2019.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-10AD-5
The optical properties of airborne mineral dust depend on its mineralogy, size distribution, and shape, and they might vary between different source regions. To date, large differences in refractive index values found in the literature have not been fully explained. In this paper we present a new dataset of complex refractive indices (m = n - ik) and single-scattering albedos (SSAs) for 19 mineral dust aerosols over the 370-950 nm range in dry conditions. Dust aerosols were generated from natural parent soils from eight source regions (northern Africa, Sahel, Middle East, eastern Asia, North and South America, southern Africa, and Australia). They were selected to represent the global-scale variability of the dust mineralogy. Dust was resuspended into a 4.2 m3 smog chamber where its spectral shortwave scattering (βsca) and absorption (βabs) coefficients, number size distribution, and bulk composition were measured. The complex refractive index was estimated by Mie calculations combining optical and size data, while the spectral SSA was directly retrieved from (βsca) and (βabs) measurements. Dust is assumed to be spherical in the whole data treatment, which introduces a potential source of uncertainty. Our results show that the imaginary part of the refractive index (k) and the SSA vary widely from sample to sample, with values for k in the range 0.0011 to 0.0088 at 370 nm, 0.0006 to 0.0048 at 520 nm, and 0.0003 to 0.0021 at 950 nm, as well as values for SSA in the range 0.70 to 0.96 at 370 nm, 0.85 to 0.98 at 520 nm, and 0.95 to 0.99 at 950 nm. In contrast, the real part of the refractive index (n) is mostly source (and wavelength) independent, with an average value between 1.48 and 1.55. The sample-to-sample variability in our dataset of k and SSA is mostly related to differences in the dust iron content. In particular, a wavelength-dependent linear relationship is found between the magnitude of k and SSA and the mass concentrations of both iron oxide and total elemental iron, with iron oxide better correlated than total elemental iron with both k and SSA. The value of k was found to be independent of size. When the iron oxide content exceeds 3 %, the SSA linearly decreases with an increasing fraction of coarse particles at short wavelengths (< 600 nm).
Compared to the literature, our values for the real part of the refractive index and SSA are in line with past results, while we found lower values of k compared to most of the literature values currently used in climate models.
We recommend that source-dependent values of the SW spectral refractive index and SSA be used in models and remote sensing retrievals instead of generic values. In particular, the close relationships found between k or SSA and the iron content in dust enable the establishment of predictive rules for spectrally resolved SW absorption based on particle composition.