Aircraft observations of water-soluble dicarboxylic acids in the aerosols over China
Abstract. Vertical profiles of dicarboxylic acids, related organic compounds and secondary organic aerosol (SOA) tracer compounds in particle phase have not yet been simultaneously explored in East Asia, although there is growing evidence that aqueous-phase oxidation of volatile organic compounds may be responsible for the elevated organic aerosols (OA) in the troposphere. Here, we found consistently good correlation of oxalic acid, the most abundant individual organic compounds in aerosols globally, with its precursors as well as biogenic-derived SOA compounds in Chinese tropospheric aerosols by aircraft measurements. Anthropogenically derived dicarboxylic acids (i.e., C5 and C6 diacids) at high altitudes were 4–20 times higher than those from surface measurements and even occasionally dominant over oxalic acid at altitudes higher than 2 km, which is in contrast to the predominance of oxalic acid previously reported globally including the tropospheric and surface aerosols. This indicates an enhancement of tropospheric SOA formation from anthropogenic precursors. Furthermore, oxalic acid-to-sulfate ratio maximized at altitudes of ∼ 2 km, explaining aqueous-phase SOA production that was supported by good correlations with predicted liquid water content, organic carbon and biogenic SOA tracers. These results demonstrate that elevated oxalic acid and related SOA compounds from both the anthropogenic and biogenic sources may substantially contribute to tropospheric OA burden over polluted regions of China, implying aerosol-associated climate effects and intercontinental transport.