Effects of near-source coagulation of biomass burning aerosols on global predictions of aerosol size distributions and implications for aerosol radiative effects
Biomass burning is a significant global source of aerosol number and mass. In fresh biomass burning plumes, aerosol coagulation reduces aerosol number and increases the median size of aerosol size distributions, impacting aerosol radiative effects. Near-source biomass burning aerosol coagulation occurs at spatial scales much smaller than the grid boxes of global and many regional models. To date, these models have ignored sub-grid coagulation and instantly mixed fresh biomass burning emissions into coarse grid boxes. A previous study found that the rate of particle growth by coagulation within an individual smoke plume can be approximated using the aerosol mass emissions rate, initial size distribution median diameter and modal width, plume mixing depth, and wind speed. In this paper, we use this parameterization of sub-grid coagulation in the GEOS-Chem–TOMAS (TwO-Moment Aerosol Sectional) global aerosol microphysics model to quantify the impacts on global aerosol size distributions, the direct radiative effect, and the cloud-albedo aerosol indirect effect. We find that inclusion of biomass burning sub-grid coagulation reduces the biomass burning impact on the number concentration of particles larger than 80 nm (a proxy for CCN-sized particles) by 37 % globally. This cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) reduction causes our estimated global biomass burning cloud-albedo aerosol indirect effect to decrease from −76 to −43 mW m−2. Further, as sub-grid coagulation moves mass to sizes with more efficient scattering, including it increases our estimated biomass burning all-sky direct effect from −224 to −231 mW m−2, with assumed external mixing of black carbon and from −188 to −197 mW m−2 and with assumed internal mixing of black carbon with core-shell morphology. However, due to differences in fire and meteorological conditions across regions, the impact of sub-grid coagulation is not globally uniform. We also test the sensitivity of the impact of sub-grid coagulation to two different biomass burning emission inventories to various assumptions about the fresh biomass burning aerosol size distribution and to two different timescales of sub-grid coagulation. The impacts of sub-grid coagulation are qualitatively the same regardless of these assumptions.