Disclaimer: This material is being kept online for historical purposes. Though accurate at the time of publication, it is no longer being updated. The page may contain broken links or outdated information, and parts may not function in current web browsers. Visit https://espo.nasa.gov for information about our current projects.


Brown carbon aerosol in the North American continental troposphere: sources,...

Liu, J., E. Scheuer, J. Dibb, G. S. Diskin, L. D. Ziemba, K. L. Thornhill, B. E. Anderson, A. Wisthaler, T. Mikoviny, J. J. Devi, M. Bergin, A. Perring, M. Markovic, J. Schwarz, Campuzano Jost, D. A. Day, J. Jimenez-Palacios, and R. Weber (2015), Brown carbon aerosol in the North American continental troposphere: sources, abundance, and radiative forcing, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 15, 7841-7858, doi:10.5194/acp-15-7841-2015.

Chemical components of organic aerosol (OA) selectively absorb light at short wavelengths. In this study, the prevalence, sources, and optical importance of this socalled brown carbon (BrC) aerosol component are investigated throughout the North American continental tropospheric column during a summer of extensive biomass burning. Spectrophotometric absorption measurements on extracts of bulk aerosol samples collected from an aircraft over the central USA were analyzed to directly quantify BrC abundance. BrC was found to be prevalent throughout the 1 to 12 km altitude measurement range, with dramatic enhancements in biomass-burning plumes. BrC to black carbon (BC) ratios, under background tropospheric conditions, increased with altitude, consistent with a corresponding increase in the absorption Ångström exponent (AAE) determined from a three-wavelength particle soot absorption photometer (PSAP). The sum of inferred BC absorption and measured BrC absorption at 365 nm was within 3 % of the measured PSAP absorption for background conditions and 22 % for biomass burning. A radiative transfer model showed that BrC absorption reduced top-ofatmosphere (TOA) aerosol forcing by ∼ 20 % in the background troposphere. Extensive radiative model simulations applying this study background tropospheric conditions provided a look-up chart for determining radiative forcing efficiencies of BrC as a function of a surface-measured BrC : BC ratio and single scattering albedo (SSA). The chart is a first attempt to provide a tool for better assessment of brown carbon’s forcing effect when one is limited to only surface data. These results indicate that BrC is an important contributor to direct aerosol radiative forcing. 1 Background Carbonaceous components of atmospheric aerosols are known to affect climate through direct scattering and absorption of solar radiation. The most prevalent carbonaceous aerosol component is the organic aerosol (OA) fraction, which until recently was assumed to only scatter light

PDF of Publication: 
Download from publisher's website.
Research Program: 
Tropospheric Composition Program (TCP)