28 Jan 2022
28 Jan 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Light Absorption by Brown Carbon over the South-East Atlantic Ocean

Lu Zhang1, Michal Segal-Rozenhaimer1,2, Haochi Che1, Caroline Dang3,4, Arthur J. Sedlacek III5, Ernie R. Lewis5, Amie Dobracki6, Jenny P. S. Wong7, Paola Formenti8, Steven G. Howell9, and Athanasios Nenes10,11 Lu Zhang et al.
  • 1Department of Geophysics, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
  • 2Bay Area Environmental Research Institute, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California, USA
  • 3NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California, USA
  • 4Universities Space Research Association, Columbia, Maryland, USA
  • 5Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, New York, USA
  • 6Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, USA
  • 7Mount Allison University, New Brunswick, CA
  • 8Université de Paris and Univ Paris Est Creteil, CNRS, LISA, Paris, France
  • 9University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Oceanography, Honolulu, USA
  • 10Laboratory of Atmospheric Processes and their Impacts, School of Architecture, Civil & Environmental Engineering, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland
  • 11Center for Studies of Air Quality and Climate Change, Institute of Chemical Engineering Sciences, Foundation for 20 Research and Technology Hellas, Greece

Abstract. Biomass burning emissions often contain brown carbon (BrC), which represents a large family of light-absorbing organics that is chemically complex and therefore difficult to estimate their absorption of incoming solar radiation, resulting in large uncertainties in the estimation of the global direct radiative effect of aerosols. Here we investigate the contribution of BrC to the total light absorption of biomass burning aerosols over the South-East Atlantic Ocean with different optical models utilizing a suite of airborne measurements from the ORACLES 2018 campaign by introducing an effective refractive index of black carbon (BC), meBC = neBC+ikeBC, that accounts for all possible absorbing components at 660 nm wavelength to facilitate the attribution of absorption at shorter wavelengths.

Most values of the imaginary part of the refractive index, keBC, were larger than those commonly used for BC from biomass burning emissions, suggesting contributions from absorbers beyond BC at 660 nm. The TEM-EDX single particle analysis further suggests that these long-wavelength absorbers might include iron oxides, as iron is found to be present only when large values of keBC are derived. Using this effective BC refractive index, we find that the contribution of BrC to the total absorption at 470 nm (RBrC,470) ranges from ~5–15 %, with the organic aerosol mass absorption coefficient (MACOA,470) at this wavelength ranging from 0.25 ± 0.34 m2 g−1 to 0.43 ± 0.12 m2 g−1. The core-shell model yielded much higher estimates of MACOA,470 and RBrC,470 than homogeneous mixing models, underscoring the importance of model treatment. Another key finding was that estimates of the BrC contribution at 470 nm from the commonly used AAE (absorption Ångström exponent) attribution method (< 5 %) are much lower than the BrC contribution estimates (RBrC,470) using our new methodology that accounts for contributions from both BrC and non-carbonaceous, long-wavelength absorbers, such as magnetite. Thus, it is recommended that application of any optical properties-based attribution method use absorption coefficients at the longest possible wavelength to minimize the influence of BrC at the long wavelength and to account for potential contributions from other absorbing materials.

Lu Zhang et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on acp-2021-1000', Anonymous Referee #2, 10 Feb 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on acp-2021-1000', Anonymous Referee #1, 13 Feb 2022

Lu Zhang et al.


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Short summary
Widespread biomass burning (BB) events occur annually in Africa, which contribute about one-third of global BB emissions. These emissions contain a large family of light-absorbing organics, known as brown carbon (BrC), whose absorption of incident solar radiation is difficult to estimate, leading to large uncertainties in the global radiative forcing estimation. This study quantified the BrC absorption of aged BB particles and highlighted the importance of absorbing iron in the meanwhile.