Articles | Volume 16, issue 4
Research article
26 Feb 2016
Research article |  | 26 Feb 2016

Simulating secondary organic aerosol in a regional air quality model using the statistical oxidation model – Part 1: Assessing the influence of constrained multi-generational ageing

S. H. Jathar, C. D. Cappa, A. S. Wexler, J. H. Seinfeld, and M. J. Kleeman

Abstract. Multi-generational oxidation of volatile organic compound (VOC) oxidation products can significantly alter the mass, chemical composition and properties of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) compared to calculations that consider only the first few generations of oxidation reactions. However, the most commonly used state-of-the-science schemes in 3-D regional or global models that account for multi-generational oxidation (1) consider only functionalization reactions but do not consider fragmentation reactions, (2) have not been constrained to experimental data and (3) are added on top of existing parameterizations. The incomplete description of multi-generational oxidation in these models has the potential to bias source apportionment and control calculations for SOA. In this work, we used the statistical oxidation model (SOM) of Cappa and Wilson (2012), constrained by experimental laboratory chamber data, to evaluate the regional implications of multi-generational oxidation considering both functionalization and fragmentation reactions. SOM was implemented into the regional University of California at Davis / California Institute of Technology (UCD/CIT) air quality model and applied to air quality episodes in California and the eastern USA. The mass, composition and properties of SOA predicted using SOM were compared to SOA predictions generated by a traditional two-product model to fully investigate the impact of explicit and self-consistent accounting of multi-generational oxidation.

Results show that SOA mass concentrations predicted by the UCD/CIT-SOM model are very similar to those predicted by a two-product model when both models use parameters that are derived from the same chamber data. Since the two-product model does not explicitly resolve multi-generational oxidation reactions, this finding suggests that the chamber data used to parameterize the models captures the majority of the SOA mass formation from multi-generational oxidation under the conditions tested. Consequently, the use of low and high NOx yields perturbs SOA concentrations by a factor of two and are probably a much stronger determinant in 3-D models than multi-generational oxidation. While total predicted SOA mass is similar for the SOM and two-product models, the SOM model predicts increased SOA contributions from anthropogenic (alkane, aromatic) and sesquiterpenes and decreased SOA contributions from isoprene and monoterpene relative to the two-product model calculations. The SOA predicted by SOM has a much lower volatility than that predicted by the traditional model, resulting in better qualitative agreement with volatility measurements of ambient OA. On account of its lower-volatility, the SOA mass produced by SOM does not appear to be as strongly influenced by the inclusion of oligomerization reactions, whereas the two-product model relies heavily on oligomerization to form low-volatility SOA products. Finally, an unconstrained contemporary hybrid scheme to model multi-generational oxidation within the framework of a two-product model in which ageing reactions are added on top of the existing two-product parameterization is considered. This hybrid scheme formed at least 3 times more SOA than the SOM during regional simulations as a result of excessive transformation of semi-volatile vapors into lower volatility material that strongly partitions to the particle phase. This finding suggests that these hybrid multi-generational schemes should be used with great caution in regional models.

Short summary
Multi-generational chemistry schemes applied in regional models do not increase secondary organic aerosol (SOA) mass production relative to traditional "two-product" schemes when both models are fitted to the same chamber data. The multi-generational chemistry schemes do change the predicted composition of SOA and the source attribution of SOA.
Final-revised paper