Significant seasonal changes in optical properties of brown carbon in the midlatitude atmosphere

Han, Heejun; Kim, Guebuem; Seo, Hojong; Shin, Kyung-Hoon; Lee, Dong-Hun

Atmospheric brown carbon (BrC) plays significant roles in the light absorption and photochemistry of the atmosphere. Although the sources and occurrences of BrC have been studied extensively, its removal processes and optical characteristics in the atmosphere have been poorly understood. In this study, we examined the seasonal changes in sources and sinks of BrC and water-soluble organic carbon (WSOC) in the atmosphere of Seoul, South Korea. Our results showed that the concentrations of BrC and WSOC decreased by approximately 80 % and 30 %, respectively, from the cold season (October–January) to the warm season (June–September). Excitation–emission matrix (EEM) spectra showed that the humic-like substance (HULIS) was the dominant fraction of BrC as the other components were not measurable. The air mass back trajectories of fire burning practices and the variations in non-crustal potassium (K) and vanadium (V) contents in the water-soluble aerosols during all seasons showed no measurable decrease in input of biomass-burning sources in summer. However, there was a significant shift in photo-resistivity of light-absorbing organic aerosols in the summer, indicating larger removals of ultraviolet (UV) degradable BrC. This trend is supported by laboratory UV radiation experiments on the optical property changes of BrC and WSOC in aerosol samples. Thus, our results suggest that the photodegradation has dominant roles in controlling the quantity and quality of light-absorbing organic aerosols in the different seasons in the midlatitude atmosphere.

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Han, Heejun / Kim, Guebuem / Seo, Hojong / et al: Significant seasonal changes in optical properties of brown carbon in the midlatitude atmosphere. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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