Properties of atmospheric black carbon (BC) particles were characterized during a field experiment at a rural background site (Melpitz, Germany) in February 2017. BC absorption at a wavelength of 870 nm was measured by a photoacoustic extinctiometer, and BC physical properties (BC mass concentration, core size distribution and coating thickness) were measured by a single-particle soot photometer (SP2). Additionally, a catalytic stripper was used to intermittently remove BC coatings by alternating between ambient and thermo-denuded conditions. From these data the mass absorption cross section of BC (MAC.sub.BC) and its enhancement factor (E.sub.MAC) were inferred for essentially water-free aerosol as present after drying to low relative humidity (RH). Two methods were applied independently to investigate the coating effect on E.sub.MAC : a correlation method (MAC.sub.BC, ambient vs. BC coating thickness) and a denuding method (MAC.sub.BC, ambient vs. MAC.sub.BC, denuded). Observed E.sub.MAC values varied from 1.0 to 1.6 (lower limit from denuding method) or â¼1.2 to 1.9 (higher limit from correlation method), with the mean coating volume fraction ranging from 54 % to 78 % in the dominating mass equivalent BC core diameter range of 200-220 nm. MAC.sub.BC and E.sub.MAC were strongly correlated with coating thickness of BC. By contrast, other potential drivers of E.sub.MAC variability, such as different BC sources (air mass origin and absorption Ãngström exponent), coating composition (ratio of inorganics to organics) and BC core size distribution, had only minor effects. These results for ambient BC measured at Melpitz during winter show that the lensing effect caused by coatings on BC is the main driver of the variations in MAC.sub.BC and E.sub.MAC, while changes in other BC particle properties such as source, BC core size or coating composition play only minor roles at this rural background site with a large fraction of aged particles. Indirect evidence suggests that potential dampening of the lensing effect due to unfavorable morphology was most likely small or even negligible.