MoMuCAMS: A new modular platform for boundary layer aerosol and trace gas vertical measurements in extreme environments
Abstract. The Modular Multiplatform Compatible Air Measurement System (MoMuCAMS) is a newly developed in situ aerosol and trace gas measurement payload for lower atmospheric vertical profiling in extreme environments. MoMuCAMS is a multiplatform compatible system, primarily designed to be attached to a helikite, a rugged tethered balloon type that is suitable for operations in cold and windy conditions. The system addresses the need for detailed vertical observations of atmospheric composition in the boundary layer and lower free-troposphere, especially in polar and alpine regions. These regions are known to frequently experience strong temperature inversions, preventing vertical mixing of aerosols and trace gases, and therefore reducing the representativeness of ground-based measurements for the vertical column, causing a large informational gap.
The MoMuCAMS encompasses a box that houses instrumentation, a board computer to stream data to the ground for inflight decisions, and a power distribution system. The enclosure has an internal volume of roughly 100 L and can accommodate various combinations of instruments within its 20 kg weight limit. This flexibility represents a unique feature, allowing the simultaneous study of multiple aerosol properties (number concentration, size distribution, cluster ions, optical properties, chemical composition and morphology), as well as trace gases (e.g. CO, CO2, O3, N2O) and meteorological variables (e.g., wind speed and direction, temperature, relative humidity, pressure) . To the authors’ knowledge, it is the first tethered balloon based system equipped with instrumentation providing a full size distribution for aerosol particles starting from 8 nm, which is vital to understanding atmospheric processes of aerosols and their climate impacts through interaction with direct radiation and clouds.
MoMuCAMS has been deployed during two field campaigns in Swiss Alpine valleys in winter and fall 2021. It has been further deployed in Fairbanks, Alaska (USA) in January–February 2022, as part of the ALPACA (Alaskan Layered Pollution and Chemical Analysis) campaign and in Pallas, Finland, in September–October 2022, as part of the PaCE2022 (Pallas Cloud Experiment) study. The system flew successfully at temperatures of −36° C, in wind speeds above 15 m s−1 and in clouds.
Here we present a full characterization of the specifically developed inlet system and novel, hitherto not yet characterized, instruments, most notably a miniaturized scanning electrical mobility spectrometer and a near-infrared carbon monoxide monitor. Three cases from one of the Swiss Alpine studies are presented to illustrate the capability of MoMuCAMS to perform high-resolution measurements with different instrumental setups. We show two case studies with surface-based inversions in the morning that allowed for observation of aerosol and trace gas dynamics in evolving boundary layer conditions. The vertical structure of the boundary layer featured in both cases a surface layer (SL) with a top between 50 and 70 m above ground level, dominated by traffic emissions leading to particle number concentrations up to seven times higher than in the residual layer above. Following sunrise, turbulent mixing led to rapid development of a mixed boundary layer and dilution of the SL within one to two hours. The third case study illustrates the capability of the system to perform aerosol sampling at a chosen altitude over several hours, long enough in low aerosol concentrations environments to perform chemical analyses. Trace elements were analyzed using inductively coupled plasma tandem mass spectrometry. The samples were also analyzed under a scanning electron microscope with energy dispersive x-ray and a transmission electron microscope to gain additional insights into their morphology and chemical composition. Such analyses are suitable to gain deeper insights into particles’ origins, and their physical and chemical transformation in the atmosphere.
Overall, MoMuCAMS is an easily deployable tethered balloon payload with high flexibility, able to cope with the rough conditions of extreme environments. Compared to uncrewed aerial vehicles (drones) it allows to observe aerosol processes in detail over multiple hours providing insights on their vertical distribution and processes, e.g. in clouds, that were difficult to obtain beforehand.
Roman Pohorsky et al.
Status: final response (author comments only)
- RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-365', Anonymous Referee #1, 11 May 2023
- RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-365', Anonymous Referee #2, 11 May 2023
- RC3: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-365', Anonymous Referee #3, 18 May 2023
Roman Pohorsky et al.
Roman Pohorsky et al.
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Pohorsky et al. present in their manuscript a newly developed tethered balloon platform for in situ measurement of atmospheric aerosol particles and trace gases. With a helikite and a modular suite of instruments, the so-called MoMuCAMS system can provide observational capabilities for particle microphysical and chemical properties in the lower troposphere. Development efforts were taken to allow deployments in challenging environments like the polar regions. Airborne measurements of aerosol vertical distributions are highly relevant for various studies and model evaluations, particularly in remote regions. Therefore, the work can potentially add a valuable contribution to the atmospheric measurement community and is suitable for publication in AMT after major revisions.
Parts of the manuscript need to be rewritten and restructured to improve readability. More accurate descriptions and carefully selecting synonyms should be considered to achieve correctness. The introduction, methods, and results sections can profit from a clearer separation; for instance, no results in the method section or background in the results section. The possibility of providing information not directly related to the platform within the supplementary should be considered. Conversely, some methodical details should be provided with the main manuscript instead of the supplementary. Comparisons of the mobile instruments of the platform with stationary instruments over a longer time range should be added for all instruments to prove the platform’s capacity to provide quality-assured data. The authors are encouraged to resubmit after a comprehensive revision.
Length should be reduced to the important content of the paper, redundancy should be avoided, and aspects not shown in the paper should not be claimed.
Since this is a technical paper, the focus should be on instrument performance and not too much on the case studies.
Line 17: “multiplatform compatible” is redundant since it is part of the platforms name and abbreviation
Line 19: add “atmospheric” before boundary layer
Line 19 to 21: “These regions are known to …” no background is needed here and the properties are not specific for the mentioned regions
Line 24 to 27: “This flexibility …” this sentence seems inaccurate because the multiple aerosol properties can only be measured in different configurations and not simultaneously. “cluster ions” and “optical properties” measurements were not shown in the paper. Chemical analysis is done offline, it’s basically a balloon-borne filter sampler provided with the subsequent analysis being free to the user/application.
Line 27: “To the author’s knowledge,…” should be avoided, leave it to the reader to decide
Line 28: “full size distribution” is inaccurate, smaller and larger particles exist beyond the observational range, you can use “wide range” instead. The upper end of the size range should be mentioned and precisely define if you mean number or volume or surface size distribution
Line 32: the Finland campaign is actually not shown in the manuscript
Line 34: -36 °C and winds up to 15 m/s are not shown in the manuscript and shouldn’t be claimed without prove
Line 35: “full characterization” seems inaccurate; full might mean something else for the authors than for others, and some important parts of the characterization are actually missing (see below)
Line 42: seems inaccurate, after the development of a mixed ABL there is no surface layer anymore
Line 50 to 52: seems inaccurate, the presented system is not capable of capturing aerosol-cloud interactions. In general, a tethered balloon can only provide a snapshot from one position of a usually moving air mass and has, therefore, only limited process observation capabilities. The measurements always need to be put in context with other observations or modeling to use for process studies.
Readability can be improved by restructuring the text to guide the reader only in one direction, from the broad topic of aerosol measurements to the specifics of balloon-borne observations with a technical focus. Jumping forth and back from detail to broad should be avoided
Line 66: What do you mean by “strongly stratified”? Do you mean multiple atmospheric layers or stable stratification? The ABL often features multiple layers and stable stratification, not only in polar or mountain regions.
Line 67: More precision required, stratification is a synonym for layering, do you mean “stable atmospheric stratification”?
Line 75: “However, for assessing the direct and indirect radiative impact of aerosols, knowing their vertical distribution is vital.” was written almost the same in line 63
Line 80 to 83: seems inaccurate, some of the described circumstances only belong to polar regions.
Line 84: “shallow inversions” seems inaccurate, an elevated inversion layer that is in the range of the lidar can also be very shallow. Do you mean “shallow ABL”?
Line 88: “air layers” is very inaccurate, do you mean “atmospheric layers” ?
Line 88 to 89: “Moreover, typically aircraft do not fly within the first hundreds of meters above the ground, missing therefore valuable information”. This statement seems inaccurate. Many different kinds of aircraft can perform manifold flight patterns depending on the research objective, as shown in various studies. The advantage of balloons is that they can provide higher resolution, operate under icing conditions, and be within supercooled clouds for an extended time.
Line 95: seems inaccurate, HOVERCAT is not a tethered balloon system
Line 107: “To the authors’ best knowledge…” see above
Line 109: since the platform is designed for arctic regions, it should be stated that CCN can be well below 100 nm in size
Line 116: “…to be deployed on sea ice” is true, but it is not a proper criterion. Way heavier instruments and infrastructure have been deployed on sea ice. Usually, sufficiently thick sea ice floes are selected for scientific operations
Provide the model, manufacturer, and country in brackets behind the devices that occur in the text e.g. helikite (Desert Star, Allsopp…, GB)
Please provide a more detailed mechanical sketch of the payload enclosure to prove the claimed “flexibility” of the system to accommodate multiple instruments. Figure 2 doesn’t provide enough details on that
Provide measurements of the inner temperature of the box during low-temperature conditions
Line 126 to 127: the paper actually shows the deployment of 8 different instruments in 3 different combinations, I wouldn’t consider this “a very large number of combinations”
- measurements not shown in the paper e.g., the STAP, shouldn’t be part
- add uncertainties
- add weights of individual instruments since it is the limiting factor for possible combinations
- a scientific objective of typical instrument combinations would be interesting
Line 129: “guest instrument” sounds awkward, it is sufficient to phrase it with additional instruments
Line 141: use “transmission” instead of “streamed”
Line 143: “subset of data”, please specify
Line 145: “various instruments”, please specify
Line 150: what is the maximum length of the tether, including the extension? This is an important limitation of the observational capabilities
Line 154: Please provide a time series of the flight(s) on which the extreme temperatures and wind speeds were observed
Line 165: Only instruments shown in detail in the manuscript should be mentioned, thus delete the STAP
Line 172: Is the 30° bend sufficient for preventing water droplets from entering the inlet? What about the tilt of the tether and the balloon itself at higher wind speeds, can that be up to 30° so that the inlet is actually horizontal? Please discuss
Line 173: Provide a time series that shows the relative humidity behind the inlet is sufficiently reduced by the heating system on a flight in high-humidity environments
Line 197 to 201: The explanation given for the large discrepancy between the 10 cm and 45 cm tubes for 510 and 994 is not sufficient. At the reported average number concentrations of 20 and 35 cm-3, the CPC should not show a deviation up to 25 % at 5 min averaged data. It appears that the measurements were not done properly or the CPCs had a malfunction.
Line 205: be precise, “particle number concentration”, there are multiple other types of particle concentrations (surface, mass, …)
Line 206: provide the measurement range of the reference CPC.
Line 208: the figure should be part of the main manuscript
Line 210 to 214: This calibration is a fundamental part of ensuring validated measurements. Detailed information about test particles, averaging/comparison time, experimental setup (flow and line lengths), and the resulting plot should be part of the main manuscript. Please explain why there are two measurements for only some particle sizes and not for all. If there were multiple calibration runs, what explains the differences between the two runs, and why was one not done for the entire size range?
Line 224 to 227: Please provide more information on the size calibration:
Line 227: seems inaccurate, the maximum deviation from the PSL diameter, including standard deviation, is larger than 8 %.
Line 229: Was a dryer used after the nebulizer?
Line 246-247: Is the explanation for the remaining underestimation of about 21% after correction supported by the number size distribution? The contour plots from the case studies don’t seem to show a pronounced accumulation mode above 300 nm, which represents 21 % of the total particle number.
Line 253: what do you mean by “stratified layers” ?
Line 250 to 255: This part rather reflects sampling strategy than instrument methods. Because it also appears in other sections, you should consider one separate paragraph for “sampling strategy”.
This whole paragraph needs methodological revision:
A deviation of 20 % at 500nm PSL seems high compared to the findings by Mei 2020, Liu 2021, and Pilz 2022. According to Gao 2016, Mei 2020 and Liu 2021, there should be no Mie resonances at 500nm with the POPS. It appears that the instrument was rather not well adjusted or the optics were dirty, resulting in reduced signal intensities. Hence, all subsequent measurements should be taken carefully because all particles detected are actually larger than those measured by the POPS.
This has also an impact on the high noise that you observed in channels below 186 nm. It would mean that the noise of your POPS units is actually up to actual particle sizes of ca. 220 nm, which would be very high compared to previous findings (Gao, Mei, Creamean, Liu, Pilz). In addition, dirty optics can also cause additional straylight leading to a reduced signal-to-noise ratio. The fringes on the Gaussian signal you describe are not a regular behavior of the sensor and are not a sufficient explanation to oppose the previous findings. Your findings significantly reduce the useful size range of the POPS, particularly for your intended measurements in polar regions.
This whole section provides rather an experience report than an instrument characterization. There is no comparison to other instruments or calibration provided. The investigated impact of environmental conditions on measurements does not say much without a reference, and Figure 4 a) only shows a point cloud. What is the temperature in 4 b) ambient or inside the Pelicase?
What about manufacturer calibration or other publications that show the performance of the instrument?
Line 313-314: What do you mean by this sentence: “The multiple nozzle-pattern achieves cut-size selection similarly to the more common Micro-Orifice Uniform-Deposit Impactors (MOUDI)”. Is the HFI additionally equipped with a MOUDI, or is it compared to the MOUDI? Why is MOUDI written in brackets behind the instrument in Table 1?
Line 325 to 343: This part does not directly belong to the platform and should be considered as supplementary. The MoMuCAMS system provides a filter sampler, but it depends on the scientific objective and the environment of how the filters are treated and analyzed. Please keep in mind that this is a technical paper about a balloon platform.
Line 362 to 379: Same as above.
Table 3: Accuracy is usually given as +-… and please use “to” instead of “-“ for the ranges to avoid confusion with positive and negative values
Line 398 to 400: This is an outlook for future improvements and should be in the according section
Line 390: Please provide more details on how the comparison was done. Was the sensor on the tether or on the ground, distance to the reference station, etc.
Why was the sensor not shielded against direct radiation during comparison? It is common knowledge that temperature sensors are affected by direct solar radiation and are, therefore, always shielded in a weather station.
This section can be shortened to focus on the platform's performance. The description of the single case partly suffers from a lack of ABL meteorology knowledge. I suggest focusing more on instrument/platform performance than on atmospheric science, which can only be partly done with the available ground-based and balloon-borne observations.
Line 412: What is a SEMS and what does it measure, mobility diameter? Please be precise with the abbreviation of particle number size distribution, either use PNSD or NSD. PSD could also mean volume or surface size distribution
Aerosol stratification and mixing usually result from ABL meteorology (besides aerosol direct radiative effects causing thermal layering in polluted environments). Therefore, it is useful to define ABL structure based on meteorological observations and derive aerosol layers from that. The authors should consider the book “An Introduction to Boundary Layer Meteorology” by Roland B. Stull
Line 434: Table 4 is not needed. Name the instruments of which measurements are shown.
Line 440: Figures 10 a) to c) should be considered supplementary since they are not related to the platform.
Figure 11: potential temperature should be used in the context of atmospheric stratification
Please also add a humidity profile, this helps for a more accurate layer definition.
Line 450: introduce N7-186 and be consistent with N>186 or N186 or N186-3370,
Why is the POPS range sometimes given up to 3000nm and sometimes up to 3370nm?
Line 469 to 472: This doesn’t seem reasonable. Wind shear is induced between layers of different wind directions or at the surface. Here, a typical logarithmic wind profile was observed that indicates wind shear at the surface with a change in wind direction (see: Ekmann layer).
The term “decouple” is usually referred to two turbulent atmospheric layers being disconnected by a stable layer. Here, mixing in a shallow surface layer inside the temperature inversion is induced by wind shear in the absence of solar radiation. The layers above are probably stably stratified, hence decoupling from an elevated mixed layer seems not the case.
Line 477 to 479: The convection causes turbulent mixing, which leads to a decrease in stability, not vice versa.
Line 486 to 490: This statement does not fit well. It appears very unlikely that the convection is strong enough to transport particles into the free troposphere from the bottom of the valley surrounded by ca. 1500 m peaks during fall and at the observed ABL conditions.
The phenomenon described by Harnisch could theoretically explain the observed RL during the first profiles. The presented observations do not seem sufficient to exclude this process.
The ABL meteorology of this case does not seem to be accurately described referring to the book “An Introduction to Boundary Layer Meteorology” by Roland B. Stull
Line 559: the ground-based PNSD is probably better suited to determine the background PNSD
Line 563: Please specify why only a part of the ultrafine particles remain in the ABL
Line 571: How is the desired sampling altitude defined?
Line 573 to 575: This is rather a part of the sampling strategy than a result
Line 576: The tether length was stated as more than 800m, why was sampling performed in the mixed layer?
Line 580: Please provide more details on the aerosol mass concentration calculation from the optical PNSD and discuss sources for the uncertainty of up to 100 % for flight 2
Line 586 to 594: This is rather background information and no result belonging to the platform
Line 600 to 604: The sample flow is actually high for a balloon-borne filter sampler. If the 5 h sampling time in a mixed layer with close-by anthropogenic aerosol sources was almost too low, how do you see the capabilities for sampling in polar regions with one order of magnitude lower aerosol concentrations?
Line 606 to 616: This is no result of this study
The section number is wrong
This section should be shortened to summarize the important technical advances of the system to atmospheric measurements, and case studies can be briefly summarized. Keep the focus on the technical paper!
Line 623: measurements of optical properties were not shown, rather a concentration of trace gases was measured than a composition
Line 626: every altitude is relevant to the Earth’s radiative budget
Line 627: high wind speed and cold conditions were actually not shown
Line 632: High data quality was not sufficiently demonstrated, instrument inter-comparisons are missing, and measurement uncertainties are not entirely investigated
Line 633: What about the separate inlet for the filter sampler?
“… deviation below 5% from…” deviation of what?
Line 637: “The manuscript provides a first empirical correction function. ” for what?
Line 639: the used number of channels is not a finding of this study
Line 642: The STAP was not shown at all
Line 649: Pallas campaign was not shown
Line 670: The reliability of the measurements cannot be proven by three case studies. Long-term comparisons along field campaigns should be considered for reliability evaluations
Line 675: What is “high signal to noise data”?
Line 675 to 679: Other airborne platforms proved the same capabilities. Actually, it is probably required to move along with an air mass to observe processes rather than staying at one spot constantly taking snapshots