Atmospheric Measurement Techniques (Oct 2021)

Effects of different correction algorithms on absorption coefficient – a comparison of three optical absorption photometers at a boreal forest site

  • K. Luoma,
  • A. Virkkula,
  • P. Aalto,
  • K. Lehtipalo,
  • K. Lehtipalo,
  • T. Petäjä,
  • M. Kulmala

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 14
pp. 6419 – 6441


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We present a comparison between three absorption photometers that measured the absorption coefficient (σabs) of ambient aerosol particles in 2012–2017 at SMEAR II (Station for Measuring Ecosystem–Atmosphere Relations II), a measurement station located in a boreal forest in southern Finland. The comparison included an Aethalometer (AE31), a multi-angle absorption photometer (MAAP), and a particle soot absorption photometer (PSAP). These optical instruments measured particles collected on a filter, which is a source of systematic errors, since in addition to the particles, the filter fibers also interact with light. To overcome this problem, several algorithms have been suggested to correct the AE31 and PSAP measurements. The aim of this study was to research how the different correction algorithms affected the derived optical properties. We applied the different correction algorithms to the AE31 and PSAP data and compared the results against the reference measurements conducted by the MAAP. The comparison between the MAAP and AE31 resulted in a multiple-scattering correction factor (Cref) that is used in AE31 correction algorithms to compensate for the light scattering by filter fibers. Cref varies between different environments, and our results are applicable to a boreal environment. We observed a clear seasonal cycle in Cref, which was probably due to variations in aerosol optical properties, such as the backscatter fraction and single-scattering albedo, and also due to variations in the relative humidity (RH). The results showed that the filter-based absorption photometers seemed to be rather sensitive to the RH even if the RH was kept below the recommended value of 40 %. The instruments correlated well (R≈0.98), but the slopes of the regression lines varied between the instruments and correction algorithms: compared to the MAAP, the AE31 underestimated σabs only slightly (the slopes varied between 0.96–1.00) and the PSAP overestimated σabs only a little (the slopes varied between 1.01–1.04 for a recommended filter transmittance >0.7). The instruments and correction algorithms had a notable influence on the absorption Ångström exponent: the median absorption Ångström exponent varied between 0.93–1.54 for the different algorithms and instruments.