Articles | Volume 14, issue 23
Research article
02 Dec 2014
Research article |  | 02 Dec 2014

Atmospheric black carbon and warming effects influenced by the source and absorption enhancement in central Europe

S. Nordmann, Y. F. Cheng, G. R. Carmichael, M. Yu, H. A. C. Denier van der Gon, Q. Zhang, P. E. Saide, U. Pöschl, H. Su, W. Birmili, and A. Wiedensohler

Abstract. Particles containing black carbon (BC), a strong absorbing substance, exert a rather uncertain direct and indirect radiative forcing in the atmosphere. To investigate the mass concentration and absorption properties of BC particles over central Europe, the model WRF-Chem was used at a resolution of 12 km in conjunction with a high-resolution BC emission inventory (EUCAARI 42-Pan-European Carbonaceous Aerosol Inventory; 1/8° × 1/16°). The model simulation was evaluated using measurements of equivalent soot carbon, absorption coefficients and particle number concentrations at seven sites within the German Ultrafine Aerosol Network, PM mass concentrations from the dense measurement network of the German Federal Environmental Agency at 392 monitoring stations, and aerosol optical depth from MODIS and AERONET. A distinct time period (25 March to 10 April 2009) was chosen, during which the clean marine air mass prevailed in the first week and afterwards the polluted continental air mass mainly from the southeast dominated with elevated daily average BC concentration of up to 4 μ g m−3. The simulated PM mass concentration, aerosol number concentration and optical depth were in good agreement with the observations, while the modelled BC mass concentrations were found to be a factor of 2 lower than the observations. Together with back trajectories, detailed model bias analyses suggested that the current BC emission in countries to the east and south of Germany might be underestimated by a factor of 5, at least for the simulation period. Running the model with upscaled BC emissions in these regions led to a smaller model bias and a better correlation between model and measurement. In contrast, the particle absorption coefficient was positively biased by about 20% even when the BC mass concentration was underestimated by around 50%. This indicates that the internal mixture treatment of BC in the WRF-Chem optical calculation is unrealistic in our case, which overamplifies the light absorption by BC-containing particles. By adjusting the modelled mass absorption cross-section towards the measured values, the simulation of particle light absorption of BC was improved as well. Finally, the positive direct radiative forcing of BC particles at the top of the atmosphere was estimated to be in the range of 0 to +4 W m−2 over Germany for the model run with improved BC mass concentration and adjusted BC light absorption cross-section. This adjustment lowered the positive forcing of BC by up to 70%, compared with the internal mixing treatment of BC in the model simulation.

Final-revised paper