AERONET; aerosol optical depth; Arctic; chemical transport model; GEOS-Chem
We compared April to September retrievals of total, fine-mode (sub-micron), and coarse-mode (super-micron) aerosol optical depth (AOD) from the Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET) with simulations from a global three-dimensional chemical transport model, the Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS-Chem), across five Arctic stations and a four-year sampling period. It was determined that the AOD histograms of both the retrievals and the simulations were better represented by a lognormal distribution and that the successful simulation of this empirical feature as well as its consequences (including a better model versus retrieval coefficient of determination in log-log AOD space) represented a general indicator of model evaluation success. Seasonal (monthly averaged) AOD retrievals were sensitive to the way in which the averaging was performed; this was ascribed to the presence of highly variable fine-mode smoke in the western Arctic. The retrieved and modelled station-by-station fine-mode AOD averages showed a peak in April/May that decreased over the summer, while the model underestimated the fine-mode AOD by an average of about 0.004 (∼6%). Both the retrievals and simulations showed seasonal coarse-mode AOD variations with a peak in April/May that was attributed to Asian and/or Saharan dust. The model's success in capturing such weak seasonal events helps to confirm the relevance of the separation of the fine and coarse modes and the general validity of model estimates in the Arctic.