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Satellite observations cap the atmospheric organic aerosol budget

Heald, C. L., D. A. Ridley, S. M. Kreidenweis, and E. Drury (2010), Satellite observations cap the atmospheric organic aerosol budget, Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L24808, doi:10.1029/2010GL045095.

Limited understanding of the production and loss of organic aerosol (OA) to the atmosphere has resulted in poorly constrained source estimates ranging from 140 to 910 TgCyr−1 [Goldstein and Galbally, 2007]. We use satellite observations to quantitatively estimate the atmospheric burden of organic aerosol and the associated production. We find that attributing the mid‐visible continental aerosol optical depth (AOD) observed by the MISR satellite entirely to OA implies a global source of 430 TgCyr−1 of sub‐micron OA. We use a model (GEOS‐Chem) to remove the contribution of inorganic aerosol, dust and soot from the observed AOD and derive a continental OA production of 150 TgCyr−1 (equivalent burden of 2.5 TgC), with 80% uncertainty. This result significantly reduces the uncertainty in the global OA budget and provides an upper limit for the “missing source” of OA.

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Tropospheric Composition Program (TCP)