Articles | Volume 15, issue 15
Research article
12 Aug 2015
Research article |  | 12 Aug 2015

The anthropogenic contribution to atmospheric black carbon concentrations in southern Africa: a WRF-Chem modeling study

F. Kuik, A. Lauer, J. P. Beukes, P. G. Van Zyl, M. Josipovic, V. Vakkari, L. Laakso, and G. T. Feig

Abstract. South Africa has one of the largest industrialized economies in Africa. Emissions of air pollutants are particularly high in the Johannesburg-Pretoria metropolitan area, the Mpumalanga Highveld and the Vaal Triangle, resulting in local air pollution. This study presents and evaluates a setup for conducting modeling experiments over southern Africa with the Weather Research and Forecasting model including chemistry and aerosols (WRF-Chem), and analyzes the contribution of anthropogenic emissions to the total black carbon (BC) concentrations from September to December 2010.

The modeled BC concentrations are compared with measurements obtained at the Welgegund station situated ca. 100 km southwest of Johannesburg. An evaluation of WRF-Chem with observational data from ground-based measurement stations, radiosondes, and satellites shows that the meteorology is modeled mostly reasonably well, but precipitation amounts are widely overestimated and the onset of the wet season is modeled approximately 1 month too early in 2010. Modeled daily mean BC concentrations show a temporal correlation of 0.66 with measurements, but the total BC concentration is underestimated in the model by up to 50 %.

Sensitivity studies with anthropogenic emissions of BC and co-emitted species turned off show that anthropogenic sources can contribute up to 100 % to BC concentrations in the industrialized and urban areas, and anthropogenic BC and co-emitted species together can contribute up to 60 % to PM1 levels. Particularly the co-emitted species contribute significantly to the aerosol optical depth (AOD). Furthermore, in areas of large-scale biomass-burning atmospheric heating rates are increased through absorption by BC up to an altitude of about 600hPa.

Short summary
The numerical model WRF-Chem is used to estimate the contribution of anthropogenic emissions to BC, aerosol optical depth and atmospheric heating rates over southern Africa. An evaluation of the model with observational data including long-term BC measurements shows that the basic meteorology is reproduced reasonably well but simulated near-surface BC concentrations are underestimated by up to 50%. It is found that up to 100% of the BC in highly industrialized regions is of anthropogenic origin.
Final-revised paper