Articles | Volume 12, issue 14
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 6067–6072, 2012
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 6067–6072, 2012

Research article 16 Jul 2012

Research article | 16 Jul 2012

Contribution of organic carbon to wood smoke particulate matter absorption of solar radiation

T. W. Kirchstetter1,2 and T. L. Thatcher3 T. W. Kirchstetter and T. L. Thatcher
  • 1Environmental Energy Technologies Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, USA
  • 2Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, University of California, Berkeley, USA
  • 3Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, USA

Abstract. A spectroscopic analysis of 115 wintertime particulate matter samples collected in rural California shows that wood smoke absorbs solar radiation with a strong spectral selectivity. This is consistent with prior work that has demonstrated that organic carbon (OC), in addition to black carbon (BC), appreciably absorbs solar radiation in the visible and ultraviolet spectral regions. We apportion light absorption to OC and BC and find that the absorption Ångström exponent of the light-absorbing OC in these samples ranges from 3.0 to 7.4 and averages 5.0. Further, we calculate that OC would account for 14% and BC would account for 86% of solar radiation absorbed by the wood smoke in the atmosphere (integrated over the solar spectrum from 300 to 2500 nm). OC would contribute 49% of the wood smoke particulate matter absorption of ultraviolet solar radiation at wavelengths below 400 nm and, therefore, may affect tropospheric photochemistry. These results illustrate that BC is the dominant light-absorbing particulate matter species in atmospheres burdened with residential wood smoke and OC absorption is secondary but not insignificant. Further, these results add to the growing body of evidence that light-absorbing OC is ubiquitous in atmospheres influenced by biomass burning and may be important to include when considering particulate matter effects on climate.

Final-revised paper