Satellite-based evidence of wavelength-dependent aerosol absorption in biomass burning smoke inferred from Ozone Monitoring Instrument
Abstract. We provide satellite-based evidence of the spectral dependence of absorption in biomass burning aerosols over South America using near-UV measurements made by the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) during 2005–2007. In the current near-UV OMI aerosol algorithm (OMAERUV), it is implicitly assumed that the only absorbing component in carbonaceous aerosols is black carbon whose imaginary component of the refractive index is wavelength independent. With this assumption, OMI-derived aerosol optical depth (AOD) is found to be significantly over-estimated compared to that of AERONET at several sites during intense biomass burning events (August-September). Other well-known sources of error affecting the near-UV method of aerosol retrieval do not explain the large observed AOD discrepancies between the satellite and the ground-based observations. A number of studies have revealed strong spectral dependence in carbonaceous aerosol absorption in the near-UV region suggesting the presence of organic carbon in biomass burning generated aerosols. A sensitivity analysis examining the importance of accounting for the presence of wavelength-dependent aerosol absorption in carbonaceous particles in satellite-based remote sensing was carried out in this work. The results convincingly show that the inclusion of spectrally-dependent aerosol absorption in the radiative transfer calculations leads to a more accurate characterization of the atmospheric load of carbonaceous aerosols. The use of a new set of aerosol models assuming wavelength-dependent aerosol absorption in the near-UV region (Absorption Angstrom Exponent λ−2.5 to −3.0) improved the OMAERUV retrieval results by significantly reducing the AOD bias observed when gray aerosols were assumed. In addition, the new retrieval of single-scattering albedo is in better agreement with those of AERONET within the uncertainties (ΔSSA = ±0.03). The new colored carbonaceous aerosol model was also found to reproduce the ground-based AOD observations over the biomass burning region of central Africa and northern India. Together with demonstrating a significant improvement in the retrieval of aerosol properties from OMI, the present study highlights the greater sensitivity of the near-UV measurements to the varying spectral aerosol absorption. This capability can be explored further for the use in the identification of the black carbon and organics in the biomass burning aerosols.