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Particle sizing calibration with refractive index correction for light scattering optical particle counters and impacts upon PCASP and CDP data collected during the Fennec campaign

Author(s): P. D. Rosenberg | A. R. Dean | P. I. Williams | A. Minikin | M. A. Pickering | A. Petzold

Journal: Atmospheric Measurement Techniques Discussions
ISSN 1867-8610

Volume: 5;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 97;
Date: 2012;
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Optical particle counters (OPCs) are used regularly for atmospheric research, measuring particle scattering cross sections to generate particle size distribution histograms. This manuscript presents two methods for calibrating OPCs with case studies based on a Passive Cavity Aerosol Spectrometer Probe (PCASP) and a Cloud Droplet Probe (CDP), both of which are operated on the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements BAe-146 research aircraft. A method is also provided for modification of OPC bin boundaries when the scattering properties of measured particles are different to those of the calibration particles due to differences in refractive index or shape. This method provides mean diameters and widths for OPC bins based upon Mie-Lorenz theory or any other particle scattering theory, without the need for smoothing, despite the highly nonlinear and non-monotonic relationship between particle size and scattering cross section. By calibrating an OPC in terms of its scattering cross section the optical properties correction can be applied with minimal information loss and full propagation of uncertainty. Analysis of multiple calibrations has shown that for the PCASP the bin centres differ by up to 30% from the manufacturer's nominal values and can change by approximately 20% when routine maintenance is performed. The CDP has been found to differ from the manufacturer's specification by 15–64% and over the course of the Fennec project in the Sahara the variability of calibration was always less than the 2-σ calibration uncertainty or 10%. As would be expected from Mie-Lorenz theory the impact of the refractive index corrections has been found to be largest for absorbing materials and the impact on Saharan dust measurements made as part of the Fennec project has been found to be up to a factor of 3 for the largest particles which could be measured by CDP. Software tools have been developed as part of this work and are now made available as open source resources for the community via the SourceForge repository.
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