Articles | Volume 15, issue 20
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 15, 11967–11980, 2015
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 15, 11967–11980, 2015

Research article 28 Oct 2015

Research article | 28 Oct 2015

Variation of the radiative properties during black carbon aging: theoretical and experimental intercomparison

C. He2,1, K.-N. Liou2,1, Y. Takano2,1, R. Zhang3, M. Levy Zamora3, P. Yang3, Q. Li2,1, and L. R. Leung4 C. He et al.
  • 1Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), CA 90095, USA
  • 2Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), CA 90095, USA
  • 3Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M, College Station, TX 77845, USA
  • 4Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA 99352, USA

Abstract. A theoretical black carbon (BC) aging model is developed to account for three typical evolution stages, namely, freshly emitted aggregates, BC coated by soluble material, and BC particles undergoing further hygroscopic growth. The geometric-optics surface-wave (GOS) approach is employed to compute the BC single-scattering properties at each aging stage, which are subsequently compared with laboratory measurements. Theoretical calculations are consistent with measurements in extinction and absorption cross sections for fresh BC aggregates with different BC sizes (i.e., mobility diameters of 155, 245, and 320 nm), with differences of ≤ 25 %. The measured optical cross sections for BC coated by sulfuric acid and for that undergoing further hygroscopic growth are generally captured (differences < 30 %) by theoretical calculations using a concentric core-shell structure, with an overestimate in extinction and absorption of the smallest BC size and an underestimate in scattering of the largest BC size. We find that the absorption and scattering cross sections of fresh BC aggregates vary by 20–40 and 50–65 %, respectively, due to the use of upper (1.95–0.79i) and lower (1.75–0.63i) bounds of BC refractive index, while the variations are < 20 % in absorption and < 50 % in scattering in the case of coated BC particles. Sensitivity analyses of the BC morphology show that the optical properties of fresh BC aggregates are more sensitive to fractal dimension than primary spherule size. The absorption and scattering cross sections of coated BC particles vary by more than a factor of 2 due to different coating structures. We find an increase of 20–250 % in absorption and a factor of 3–15 in scattering during aging, significantly depending on coating morphology and aging stages. This study suggests that an accurate estimate of BC radiative effects requires the incorporation of a dynamic BC aging process that accounts for realistic coating structures in climate models.

Final-revised paper