courtesy of Nature Communications

A biogenic secondary organic aerosol source of cirrus ice nucleating particles

Atmospheric ice nucleating particles (INPs) influence global climate by altering cloud formation, lifetime, and precipitation efficiency. The role of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) material as a source of INPs in the ambient atmosphere has not been well defined. Here, we demonstrate the potential for biogenic SOA to activate as depositional INPs in the upper troposphere by combining field measurements with laboratory experiments. Ambient INPs were measured in a remote mountaintop location at –46 °C and an ice supersaturation of 30% with concentrations ranging from 0.1 to 70 L–1. Concentrations of depositional INPs were positively correlated with the mass fractions and loadings of isoprene-derived secondary organic aerosols. Compositional analysis of ice residuals showed that ambient particles with isoprene-derived SOA material can act as depositional ice nuclei. Laboratory experiments further demonstrated the ability of isoprene-derived SOA to nucleate ice under a range of atmospheric conditions. We further show that ambient concentrations of isoprene-derived SOA can be competitive with other INP sources. This demonstrates that isoprene and potentially other biogenically-derived SOA materials could influence cirrus formation and properties.