02 Feb 2021

02 Feb 2021

Review status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Rapid transformation of ambient absorbing aerosols from West African biomass burning

Huihui Wu1, Jonathan W. Taylor1, Justin M. Langridge2, Chenjie Yu1, James D. Allan1,3, Kate Szpek2, Michael I. Cotterell4,a, Paul I. Williams1,3, Michael Flynn1, Patrick Barker1, Cathryn Fox2, Grant Allen1, James Lee5,6, and Hugh Coe1 Huihui Wu et al.
  • 1Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  • 2Met Office, Fitzroy Road, Exeter, EX1 3PB, UK
  • 3National Centre for Atmospheric Science, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  • 4College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK
  • 5Wolfson Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratories, Department of Chemistry, University of York, York YO10 5DD, UK
  • 6National Centre for Atmospheric Sciences, University of York, York YO10 5DD, UK
  • anow at: School of Chemistry, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom

Abstract. Seasonal biomass burning (BB) over West Africa is a globally significant source of carbonaceous particles in the atmosphere, which have important climate impacts but are poorly constrained. Here, the evolution of smoke aerosols emitted from flaming-controlled burning of agricultural waste and wooded savannah in the Senegal region was characterized over a timescale of half-day advection from source during the MOYA-2017 (Methane Observation Yearly Assessment-2017) aircraft campaign. Plumes from such fire types are rich in black carbon (BC) emissions. Concurrent measurements of chemical composition, organic aerosol (OA) oxidation state, bulk aerosol size and BC mixing state reveal that emitted BB submicron aerosols changed dramatically with time. Various aerosol optical properties (e.g., absorption Ångström exponent (AAE), and mass absorption coefficients (MAC)) also evolved with ageing. In this study, brown carbon (BrC) was a minor fractional component of the freshly emitted BB aerosols (< 0.5 h), but the increasing AAE with particle age indicates that BrC formation dominated over any loss process over the first ~12 hours of plume transport. Using different methods, the fractional contribution of BrC to total aerosol absorption showed an increasing trend with time and was ~18–31 % at the optical wavelength of 405 nm after half-day transport. The generated BrC was found to be positively correlated with oxygenated and low-volatility OA, likely from the oxidation of evaporated primary OA and secondary OA formation. We found that the evolution of BrC with particle age was different in this region compared with previous BB field studies that mainly focused on emissions from smouldering fires, which have shown a high contribution from BrC at source and BrC net loss upon ageing. This study suggests an initial stage of BrC absorption enhancement during the evolution of BB smoke. Secondary processing is the dominant contributor to BrC production in this BB region, in contrast to the primary emission of BrC previously reported in other BB studies. The total aerosol absorption normalized to BC mass (MACmeas-BC) was also enhanced with ageing, due to the lensing effect of increasingly thick coatings on BC and the absorption by BrC. The effect of ageing on aerosol absorption, represented by the absorption enhancement (EAbs-MAC), was estimated over timescales of hours. MOYA-2017 provides novel field results. The comparisons between MOYA-2017 and previous field studies imply that the evolution of absorbing aerosols (BC and BrC) after emission vary with source combustion conditions. Different treatments of absorbing aerosol properties and their evolution in different types of fires should be considered when modelling regional radiative forcing. These observational results will be very important for predicting climate effects of BB aerosol in regions controlled by flaming burning of agricultural waste and savannah-like biomass fuels.

Huihui Wu 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-2021-49', Anonymous Referee #1, 01 Mar 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on acp-2021-49', Anonymous Referee #2, 18 Mar 2021
  • RC3: 'Comment on acp-2021-49', Anonymous Referee #3, 26 Mar 2021
  • AC1: 'Response to the comments on acp-2021-49', HuiHui Wu, 04 May 2021

Huihui Wu et al.


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Short summary
Seasonal biomass burning over West Africa is a globally significant source of carbonaceous particles in the atmosphere, which have important climate impacts but are poorly constrained. We conducted in-situ airborne measurements to investigate the evolution of smoke aerosol properties in this region. We observed absorption enhancement for both the black carbon and brown carbon after emission, which provide new field results and constraints on aerosol parameterisations for future climate models.