Applicability of the low-cost optical particle counter OPC-N3 for microphysical measurements of fog

Nurowska K., Mohammadi M., Malinowski S., Markowicz K.

Atmospheric Measurement Techniques

16(9), 2023, 2415–2430, 10.5194/amt-16-2415-2023

Low-cost devices for particulate matter measurements are characterised by small dimensions and a light weight. This advantage makes them ideal for UAV measurements, where those parameters are crucial. However, they also have some issues. The values of particulate matter from low-cost optical particle counters can be biased by high ambient humidity. In this article, we evaluate the low-cost Alphasense OPC-N3 optical particle counter for measuring the microphysical properties of fog. This study aimed to show that OPC-N3 not only registers aerosols or humidified aerosols but also registers fog droplets.

The study was carried out on the rooftop of the Institute of Geophysics, University of Warsaw, Poland, during autumn–winter 2021. To validate the results, the data from OPC-N3 were compared with the data obtained from the reference instrument, the Oxford Lasers VisiSize D30. VisiSize D30 is a shadowgraph device able to register photos of individual droplets.

Considering the effective radius of droplets, it is possible to differentiate low-visibility situations between fog conditions (which are not hazardous for people) from haze events, when highly polluted air can cause health risks to people.

The compared microphysical properties were liquid water content (LWC), number concentration (Nc), effective radius reff and statistical moments of radius. The Pearson correlation coefficient between both devices for LWC was 0.92, Nc was 0.95 and reff was 0.63. Overall, these results suggest good compliance between instruments. However, the OPC-N3 has to be corrected regarding professional equipment.