Articles | Volume 15, issue 9
Research article
12 May 2015
Research article |  | 12 May 2015

Gas and aerosol carbon in California: comparison of measurements and model predictions in Pasadena and Bakersfield

K. R. Baker, A. G. Carlton, T. E. Kleindienst, J. H. Offenberg, M. R. Beaver, D. R. Gentner, A. H. Goldstein, P. L. Hayes, J. L. Jimenez, J. B. Gilman, J. A. de Gouw, M. C. Woody, H. O. T. Pye, J. T. Kelly, M. Lewandowski, M. Jaoui, P. S. Stevens, W. H. Brune, Y.-H. Lin, C. L. Rubitschun, and J. D. Surratt

Abstract. Co-located measurements of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) organic carbon (OC), elemental carbon, radiocarbon (14C), speciated volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and OH radicals during the CalNex field campaign provide a unique opportunity to evaluate the Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model's representation of organic species from VOCs to particles. Episode average daily 23 h average 14C analysis indicates PM2.5 carbon at Pasadena and Bakersfield during the CalNex field campaign was evenly split between contemporary and fossil origins. CMAQ predicts a higher contemporary carbon fraction than indicated by the 14C analysis at both locations. The model underestimates measured PM2.5 organic carbon at both sites with very little (7% in Pasadena) of the modeled mass represented by secondary production, which contrasts with the ambient-based SOC / OC fraction of 63% at Pasadena.

Measurements and predictions of gas-phase anthropogenic species, such as toluene and xylenes, are generally within a factor of 2, but the corresponding SOC tracer (2,3-dihydroxy-4-oxo-pentanoic acid) is systematically underpredicted by more than a factor of 2. Monoterpene VOCs and SOCs are underestimated at both sites. Isoprene is underestimated at Pasadena and overpredicted at Bakersfield and isoprene SOC mass is underestimated at both sites. Systematic model underestimates in SOC mass coupled with reasonable skill (typically within a factor of 2) in predicting hydroxyl radical and VOC gas-phase precursors suggest error(s) in the parameterization of semivolatile gases to form SOC. Yield values (α) applied to semivolatile partitioning species were increased by a factor of 4 in CMAQ for a sensitivity simulation, taking into account recent findings of underestimated yields in chamber experiments due to gas wall losses. This sensitivity resulted in improved model performance for PM2.5 organic carbon at both field study locations and at routine monitor network sites in California. Modeled percent secondary contribution (22% at Pasadena) becomes closer to ambient-based estimates but still contains a higher primary fraction than observed.

Short summary
This work details the evaluation of PM2.5 carbon, VOC precursors, and OH estimated by the CMAQ photochemical transport model using routine and special measurements from the 2010 CalNex field study. Here, CMAQ and most recent emissions inventory (2011 NEI) are used to generate model PM2.5 OC estimates that are examined in novel ways including primary vs. secondary formation, fossil vs. contemporary carbon, OH and HO2 evaluation, and the relationship between key VOC precursors and SOC tracers.
Final-revised paper