We examine the extent to which three physical aerosol parameters—effective radius, composition (sulfate weight percent), and total volume—can be determined from infrared transmission spectra. Using simulated transmission data over the range and errors taken from the infrared spectral measurements of the Atmospheric Trace Molecule Spectroscopy (ATMOS) instrument, we use optimal estimation to recover these aerosol parameters. Uncertainties in these are examined as a function of the size, composition, and loading of stratospheric aerosols and of the spectral range employed. Using the entire spectral range above, we retrieve all three parameters with a precision to within if the size distribution form is known. Additional errors result, however, from an uncertainty in the size distribution width. These are small (only a few percent) for composition and total volume but are substantial (as much as for effective radius. Errors also increase substantially when the spectral range is reduced. The retrieved effective radius can have an error of or greater for typical stratospheric aerosol sizes when the spectral range is restricted to the lower wavenumber part of the range. For good accuracy in effective radius, the spectral range must extend beyond . Composition and total volume are less sensitive to the spectral range than effective radius. These simulations were carried out with modeled data to test the potential accuracy of stratospheric sulfate aerosol retrievals from the Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment (ACE). Because of the limitations that result from the use of simulated data, we have tested our retrieval algorithm using ATMOS spectra in different filter regions and present here the aerosol parameters obtained.
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