Articles | Volume 14, issue 11
Research article
12 Jun 2014
Research article |  | 12 Jun 2014

A naming convention for atmospheric organic aerosol

B. N. Murphy, N. M. Donahue, A. L. Robinson, and S. N. Pandis

Abstract. While the field of atmospheric organic aerosol scientific research has experienced thorough and insightful progress over the last half century, this progress has been accompanied by the evolution of a communicative and detailed yet, at times, complex and inconsistent language. The menagerie of detailed classification that now exists to describe organic compounds in our atmosphere reflects the wealth of observational techniques now at our disposal as well as the rich information provided by state-of-the-science instrumentation. However, the nomenclature in place to communicate these scientific gains is growing disjointed to the point that effective communication within the scientific community and to the public may be sacrificed. We propose standardizing a naming convention for organic aerosol classification that is relevant to laboratory studies, ambient observations, atmospheric models, and various stakeholders for air-quality problems. Because a critical aspect of this effort is to directly translate the essence of complex physico-chemical phenomena to a much broader, policy-oriented audience, we recommend a framework that maximizes comprehension among scientists and non-scientists alike. For example, to classify volatility, it relies on straightforward alphabetic terms (e.g., semivolatile, SV; intermediate volatility, IV; etc.) rather than possibly ambiguous numeric indices. This framework classifies organic material as primary or secondary pollutants and distinguishes among fundamental features important for science and policy questions including emission source, chemical phase, and volatility. Also useful is the addition of an alphabetic suffix identifying the volatility of the organic material or its precursor for when emission occurred. With this framework, we hope to introduce into the community a consistent connection between common notation for the general public and detailed nomenclature for highly specialized discussion. In so doing, we try to maintain consistency with historical, familiar naming schemes, unify much of the scattered nomenclature presented in recent literature, reduce the barrier of comprehension to outside audiences, and construct a scaffold into which insights from future scientific discoveries can be incorporated.

Final-revised paper