Black carbon over Mexico: the effect of atmospheric transport on mixing state, mass absorption cross-section, and BC/CO ratios
Abstract. A single particle soot photometer (SP2) was operated on the NCAR C-130 during the MIRAGE campaign (part of MILAGRO), sampling black carbon (BC) over Mexico. The highest BC concentrations were measured over Mexico City (sometimes as much as 2 μg/m3) and over hill-fires to the south of the city. The age of plumes outside of Mexico City was determined using a combination of HYSPLIT trajectories, WRF-FLEXPART modeling and CMET balloon tracks. As expected, older, diluted air masses had lower BC concentrations. A comparison of carbon monoxide (CO) and BC suggests a CO background of around 65 ppbv, and a background-corrected BC/COnet ratio of 2.89±0.89 (ng/m3-STP)/ppbv (average ± standard deviation). This ratio is similar for fresh emissions over Mexico City, as well as for aged airmasses. Comparison of light absorption measured with a particle soot absorption photometer (PSAP) and the SP2 BC suggests a BC mass-normalized absorption cross-section (MAC) of 10.9±2.1 m2/g at 660 nm (or 13.1 m2/g @ 550 nm, assuming MAC is inversely dependent on wavelength). This appears independent of aging and similar to the expected absorption cross-section for aged BC, but values, particularly in fresh emissions, could be biased high due to instrument artifacts. SP2-derived BC coating indicators show a prominent thinly-coated BC mode over the Mexico City Metropolitan Area (MCMA), while older air masses show both thinly-coated and thickly-coated BC. Some 2-day-old plumes do not show a prominent thickly-coated BC mode, possibly due to preferential wet scavenging of the likely-hydrophilic thickly-coated BC.