Articles | Volume 13, issue 15
Research article
 | Highlight paper
09 Aug 2013
Research article | Highlight paper |  | 09 Aug 2013

Absorptivity of brown carbon in fresh and photo-chemically aged biomass-burning emissions

R. Saleh, C. J. Hennigan, G. R. McMeeking, W. K. Chuang, E. S. Robinson, H. Coe, N. M. Donahue, and A. L. Robinson

Abstract. Experiments were conducted to investigate light absorption of organic aerosol (OA) in fresh and photo-chemically aged biomass-burning emissions. The experiments considered residential hardwood fuel (oak) and fuels commonly consumed in wild-land and prescribed fires in the United States (pocosin pine and gallberry). Photo-chemical aging was performed in an environmental chamber. We constrained the effective light-absorption properties of the OA using conservative limiting assumptions, and found that both primary organic aerosol (POA) in the fresh emissions and secondary organic aerosol (SOA) produced by photo-chemical aging contain brown carbon, and absorb light to a significant extent. This work presents the first direct evidence that SOA produced in aged biomass-burning emissions is absorptive. For the investigated fuels, SOA is less absorptive than POA in the long visible, but exhibits stronger wavelength-dependence and is more absorptive in the short visible and near-UV. Light absorption by SOA in biomass-burning emissions might be an important contributor to the global radiative forcing budget.

Final-revised paper