Articles | Volume 17, issue 6
Research article
23 Mar 2017
Research article |  | 23 Mar 2017

Biomass burning and biogenic aerosols in northern Australia during the SAFIRED campaign

Andelija Milic, Marc D. Mallet, Luke T. Cravigan, Joel Alroe, Zoran D. Ristovski, Paul Selleck, Sarah J. Lawson, Jason Ward, Maximilien J. Desservettaz, Clare Paton-Walsh, Leah R. Williams, Melita D. Keywood, and Branka Miljevic

Abstract. There is a lack of knowledge of how biomass burning aerosols in the tropics age, including those in the fire-prone Northern Territory in Australia. This paper reports chemical characterization of fresh and aged aerosols monitored during the 1-month-long SAFIRED (Savannah Fires in the Early Dry Season) field study, with an emphasis on the chemical signature and aging of organic aerosols. The campaign took place in June 2014 during the early dry season when the surface measurement site, the Australian Tropical Atmospheric Research Station (ATARS), located in the Northern Territory, was heavily influenced by thousands of wild and prescribed bushfires. ATARS was equipped with a wide suite of instrumentation for gaseous and aerosol characterization. A compact time-of-flight aerosol mass spectrometer was deployed to monitor aerosol chemical composition. Approximately 90 % of submicron non-refractory mass was composed of organic material. Ozone enhancement in biomass burning plumes indicated increased air mass photochemistry. The diversity in biomass burning emissions was illustrated through variability in chemical signature (e.g. wide range in f44, from 0.06 to 0.18) for five intense fire events. The background particulate loading was characterized using positive matrix factorization (PMF). A PMF-resolved BBOA (biomass burning organic aerosol) factor comprised 24 % of the submicron non-refractory organic aerosol mass, confirming the significance of fire sources. A dominant PMF factor, OOA (oxygenated organic aerosol), made up 47 % of the sampled aerosol, illustrating the importance of aerosol aging in the Northern Territory. Biogenic isoprene-derived organic aerosol factor was the third significant fraction of the background aerosol (28 %).

Short summary
This study reports chemical characterization of fresh and processed aerosols sampled over a month-long field campaign, during the intense fire period in Australian tropical savannah region. The study illustrates diversity in fire emissions and importance of processed fire emissions and formation of secondary species, including biogenic secondary species, in northern Australia.
Final-revised paper