Is Black Carbon an Unimportant Ice-Nucleating Particle in Mixed-Phase Clouds?

Vergara-Temprado, Jesús, Holden, Mark orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-3060-7615, Orton, Thomas R., O'Sullivan, Daniel, Umo, Nsikanabasi S., Browse, Jo, Reddington, Carly, Baeza-Romero, María Teresa, Jones, Jenny M. et al (2018) Is Black Carbon an Unimportant Ice-Nucleating Particle in Mixed-Phase Clouds? Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 123 (8). pp. 4273-4283. ISSN 2169-897X

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It has been hypothesized that black carbon (BC) influences mixed‐phase clouds by acting as an ice‐nucleating particle (INP). However, the literature data for ice nucleation by BC immersed in supercooled water are extremely varied, with some studies reporting that BC is very effective at nucleating ice, whereas others report no ice‐nucleating ability. Here we present new experimental results for immersion mode ice nucleation by BC from two contrasting fuels (n‐decane and eugenol). We observe no significant heterogeneous nucleation by either sample. Using a global aerosol model, we quantify the maximum relative importance of BC for ice nucleation when compared with K‐feldspar and marine organic aerosol acting as INP. Based on the upper limit from our laboratory data, we show that BC contributes at least several orders of magnitude less INP than feldspar and marine organic aerosol. Representations of its atmospheric ice‐nucleating ability based on older laboratory data produce unrealistic results when compared against ambient observations of INP. Since BC is a complex material, it cannot be unambiguously ruled out as an important INP species in all locations at all times. Therefore, we use our model to estimate a range of values for the density of active sites that BC particles must have to be relevant for ice nucleation in the atmosphere. The estimated values will guide future work on BC, defining the required sensitivity of future experimental studies.

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