Articles | Volume 12, issue 1
Research article
11 Jan 2012
Research article |  | 11 Jan 2012

Organic matter and non-refractory aerosol over the remote Southeast Pacific: oceanic and combustion sources

L. M. Shank, S. Howell, A. D. Clarke, S. Freitag, V. Brekhovskikh, V. Kapustin, C. McNaughton, T. Campos, and R. Wood

Abstract. Submicron aerosol physical and chemical properties in remote marine air were measured from aircraft over the Southeast Pacific during VOCALS-REx in 2008 and the North Pacific during IMPEX in 2006, and aboard a ship in the Equatorial Pacific in 2009. A High Resolution – Particle Time of Flight Aerosol Mass Spectrometer (HR-ToF-AMS) measured non-refractory submicron aerosol composition during all campaigns. Sulfate (SO4) and organics (Org), during VOCALS and the cruise show lower absolute values than those reported for previous "clean air" studies. In the marine boundary layer, average concentrations for SO4 were 0.52 μg m−3 for the VOCALS region and 0.85 μg m−3 for the equatorial region while average Org concentrations were 0.10 and 0.07 μg m−3, respectively. Campaign average Org/SO4 ratios were 0.19 (VOCALS) and 0.08 (equatorial Pacific). Black carbon (BC) measurements from a single particle soot photometer (SP2) and carbon monoxide (CO) concentrations over the Southeast Pacific provided sensitive indicators of pollution. CO and BC were used to identify the least polluted air, which had average concentrations of SO4 and Org of 0.14 and 0.01 μg m−3, respectively, with an average Org/SO4 of 0.08. Data from IMPEX was constrained to similar clean air criterion, and resulted in an average Org/SO4 ratio of 0.19. Under the cleanest MBL conditions during VOCALS, identified by CO below 61 ppbv, a robust linear relationship between Org and BC concentrations revealed that even at very low pollution levels, combustion sources dominated organic aerosol, suggesting little to no marine source of submicrometer Org to the atmosphere over the eastern South Pacific. This means marine organics cannot be identified by merely setting a standard for background conditions below which anthropogenic influence can be disregarded. Other methods must be used to exclude non-marine sources.

Final-revised paper