Comparative Measurements of Ambient Atmospheric Concentrations of Ice Nucleating Particles using Multiple Immersion Freezing Methods and a Continuous Flow Diffusion Chamber

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College of Natual Science and Mathematics, Chemistry and Biochemistry


Measurement methods, Aerosol measurements, Temperature effects, Particulates, Polar research


A number of new measurement methods for ice nucleating particles (INPs) have been introduced in recent years, and it is important to address how these methods compare. Laboratory comparisons of instruments sampling major INP types are common, but few comparisons have occurred for ambient aerosol measurements exploring the utility, consistency and complementarity of different methods to cover the large dynamic range of INP concentrations that exists in the atmosphere. In this study, we assess the comparability of four offline immersion freezing measurement methods (Colorado State University ice spectrometer, IS; North Carolina State University cold stage, CS; National Institute for Polar Research Cryogenic Refrigerator Applied to Freezing Test, CRAFT; University of British Columbia micro-orifice uniform deposit impactor–droplet freezing technique, MOUDI-DFT) and an online method (continuous flow diffusion chamber, CFDC) used in a manner deemed to promote/maximize immersion freezing, for the detection of INPs in ambient aerosols at different locations and in different sampling scenarios. We also investigated the comparability of different aerosol collection methods used with offline immersion freezing instruments. Excellent agreement between all methods could be obtained for several cases of co-sampling with perfect temporal overlap. Even for sampling periods that were not fully equivalent, the deviations between atmospheric INP number concentrations measured with different methods were mostly less than 1 order of magnitude. In some cases, however, the deviations were larger and not explicable without sampling and measurement artifacts. Overall, the immersion freezing methods seem to effectively capture INPs that activate as single particles in the modestly supercooled temperature regime (> −20 °C), although more comparisons are needed in this temperature regime that is difficult to access with online methods. Relative to the CFDC method, three immersion freezing methods that disperse particles into a bulk liquid (IS, CS, CRAFT) exhibit a positive bias in measured INP number concentrations below −20 °C, increasing with decreasing temperature. This bias was present but much less pronounced for a method that condenses separate water droplets onto limited numbers of particles prior to cooling and freezing (MOUDI-DFT). Potential reasons for the observed differences are discussed, and further investigations proposed to elucidate the role of all factors involved.

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