Articles | Volume 12, issue 22
Research article
21 Nov 2012
Research article |  | 21 Nov 2012

The mixing state of carbonaceous aerosol particles in northern and southern California measured during CARES and CalNex 2010

J. F. Cahill, K. Suski, J. H. Seinfeld, R. A. Zaveri, and K. A. Prather

Abstract. Carbonaceous aerosols impact climate directly by scattering and absorbing radiation, and hence play a major, although highly uncertain, role in global radiative forcing. Commonly, ambient carbonaceous aerosols are internally mixed with secondary species such as nitrate, sulfate, and ammonium, which influences their optical properties, hygroscopicity, and atmospheric lifetime, thus impacting climate forcing. Aircraft-aerosol time-of-flight mass spectrometry (A-ATOFMS), which measures single-particle mixing state, was used to determine the fraction of organic and soot aerosols that are internally mixed and the variability of their mixing state in California during the Carbonaceous Aerosols and Radiative Effects Study (CARES) and the Research at the Nexus of Air Quality and Climate Change (CalNex) field campaigns in the late spring and early summer of 2010. Nearly 88% of all A-ATOFMS measured particles (100–1000 nm in diameter) were internally mixed with secondary species, with 96% and 75% of particles internally mixed with nitrate and/or sulfate in southern and northern California, respectively. Even though atmospheric particle composition in both regions was primarily influenced by urban sources, the mixing state was found to vary greatly, with nitrate and soot being the dominant species in southern California, and sulfate and organic carbon in northern California. Furthermore, mixing state varied temporally in northern California, with soot becoming the prevalent particle type towards the end of the study as regional pollution levels increased. The results from these studies demonstrate that the majority of ambient carbonaceous particles in California are internally mixed and are heavily influenced by secondary species that are most prevalent in the particular region. Based on these findings, considerations of regionally dominant sources and secondary species, as well as temporal variations of aerosol physical and optical properties, will be required to obtain more accurate predictions of the climate impacts of aerosol in California.

Final-revised paper