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Particulate Oxalate-To-Sulfate Ratio as an Aqueous Processing Marker:...

Hilario, M. R., E. Crosbie, P. A. Bañaga, G. Betito, R. A. Braun, O. Cambaliza, A. Corral, M. T. Cruz, J. Dibb, G. R. Lorenzo, A. B. MacDonald, C. E. Robinson, M. A. Shook, J. Simpas, C. Stahl, E. L. Winstead, L. D. Ziemba, and A. Sorooshian (2022), Particulate Oxalate-To-Sulfate Ratio as an Aqueous Processing Marker: Similarity Across Field Campaigns and Limitations, Geophys. Res. Lett..

Leveraging aerosol data from multiple airborne and surface-based field campaigns encompassing diverse environmental conditions, we calculate statistics of the oxalate-sulfate mass ratio (median: 0.0217; 95% confidence interval: 0.0154–0.0296; R = 0.76; N = 2,948). Ground-based measurements of the oxalate-sulfate ratio fall within our 95% confidence interval, suggesting the range is robust within the mixed layer for the submicrometer particle size range. We demonstrate that dust and biomass burning emissions can separately bias this ratio toward higher values by at least one order of magnitude. In the absence of these confounding factors, the 95% confidence interval of the ratio may be used to estimate the relative extent of aqueous processing by comparing inferred oxalate concentrations between air masses, with the assumption that sulfate primarily originates from aqueous processing. Plain Language Summary The extent of atmospheric chemical processing remains an uncertain aspect of air mass characterization. Addressing this uncertainty is important because chemical reactions in the atmosphere in the presence of water (aqueous processing) produce a large fraction of global aerosol mass. The oxalate-to-sulfate ratio has been proposed as an indicator of aqueous processing, where higher values point to increased processing of an air mass. In this study, we quantify a range in the oxalate-to-sulfate mass ratio (0.0154–0.0296) using data from multiple field campaigns encompassing a diverse set of environments. This range is robust near the surface for particles below 1 micrometer in diameter. Larger particles, especially dust, and biomass burning particles significantly affect the oxalate-to-sulfate ratio and thus may confound the interpretation of a high oxalate-to-sulfate ratio as a signal of aqueous processing. In the absence of dust and biomass burning particles, the oxalate-to-sulfate ratio range may be used to compare the relative extent of aqueous processing between different air masses.

Research Program: 
Atmospheric Composition
Atmospheric Composition Modeling and Analysis Program (ACMAP)
Radiation Science Program (RSP)
Funding Sources: