Articles | Volume 13, issue 13
Research article
04 Jul 2013
Research article |  | 04 Jul 2013

Impact of aging mechanism on model simulated carbonaceous aerosols

Y. Huang, S. Wu, M. K. Dubey, and N. H. F. French

Abstract. Carbonaceous aerosols including organic carbon and black carbon have significant implications for both climate and air quality. In the current global climate or chemical transport models, a fixed hydrophobic-to-hydrophilic conversion lifetime for carbonaceous aerosol (τ) is generally assumed, which is usually around one day. We have implemented a new detailed aging scheme for carbonaceous aerosols in a chemical transport model (GEOS-Chem) to account for both the chemical oxidation and the physical condensation-coagulation effects, where τ is affected by local atmospheric environment including atmospheric concentrations of water vapor, ozone, hydroxyl radical and sulfuric acid. The updated τ exhibits large spatial and temporal variations with the global average (up to 11 km altitude) calculated to be 2.6 days. The chemical aging effects are found to be strongest over the tropical regions driven by the low ozone concentrations and high humidity there. The τ resulted from chemical aging generally decreases with altitude due to increases in ozone concentration and decreases in humidity. The condensation-coagulation effects are found to be most important for the high-latitude areas, in particular the polar regions, where the τ values are calculated to be up to 15 days. When both the chemical aging and condensation-coagulation effects are considered, the total atmospheric burdens and global average lifetimes of BC, black carbon, (OC, organic carbon) are calculated to increase by 9% (3%) compared to the control simulation, with considerable enhancements of BC and OC concentrations in the Southern Hemisphere. Model evaluations against data from multiple datasets show that the updated aging scheme improves model simulations of carbonaceous aerosols for some regions, especially for the remote areas in the Northern Hemisphere. The improvement helps explain the persistent low model bias for carbonaceous aerosols in the Northern Hemisphere reported in literature. Further model sensitivity simulations focusing on the continental outflow of carbonaceous aerosols demonstrate that previous studies using the old aging scheme could have significantly underestimated the intercontinental transport of carbonaceous aerosols.

Final-revised paper