Articles | Volume 12, issue 15
Research article
13 Aug 2012
Research article |  | 13 Aug 2012

Cloud condensation nuclei activity of fresh primary and aged biomass burning aerosol

G. J. Engelhart, C. J. Hennigan, M. A. Miracolo, A. L. Robinson, and S. N. Pandis

Abstract. We quantify the hygroscopic properties of particles freshly emitted from biomass burning and after several hours of photochemical aging in a smog chamber. Values of the hygroscopicity parameter, κ, were calculated from cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) measurements of emissions from combustion of 12 biomass fuels commonly burned in North American wildfires. Prior to photochemical aging, the κ of the fresh primary aerosol varied widely, between 0.06 (weakly hygroscopic) and 0.6 (highly hygroscopic). The hygroscopicity of the primary aerosol was positively correlated with the inorganic mass fraction of the particles. Photochemical processing reduced the range of κ values to between 0.08 and 0.3. The changes in κ were driven by the photochemical production of secondary organic aerosol (SOA). SOA also contributed to growth of particles formed during nucleation events. Analysis of the nucleation mode particles enabled the first direct quantification of the hygroscopicity parameter κ for biomass burning SOA, which was on average 0.11, similar to values observed for biogenic SOA. Although initial CCN activity of biomass burning aerosol emissions are highly variable, after a few hours of photochemical processing κ converges to a value of 0.2 ± 0.1. Therefore, photochemical aging reduces the variability of biomass burning CCN κ, which should simplify analysis of the potential effects of biomass burning aerosol on climate.

Final-revised paper