Rapid transformation of ambient absorbing aerosols from West African biomass burning

Wu, Huihui; Taylor, Jonathan W.; Langridge, Justin M.; Yu, Chenjie; Allan, James D.; Szpek, Kate; Cotterell, Michael I.; Williams, Paul I.; Flynn, Michael; Barker, Patrick; Fox, Cathryn; Allen, Grant; Lee, James; Coe, Hugh

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 the 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 – MACs) also evolved with ageing. In this study, brown carbon (BrC) was a minor fractional component of the freshly emitted BB aerosols (inline-formula< 0.5 inline-formulah), but the increasing AAE with particle age indicates that BrC formation dominated over any loss process over the first inline-formula∼ 12 inline-formulah of plume transport. Using different methods, the fractional contribution of BrC to total aerosol absorption showed an increasing trend with time and was inline-formula∼ 18 %–31 % at the optical wavelength of 405 inline-formulanm 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 the 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 (inline-formulaMACmeas-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 (inline-formulaEAbs-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 varies with source combustion conditions. Different treatments of absorbing aerosol properties from different types of fires and their downwind evolution should be considered when modelling regional radiative forcing. These observational results will be very important for predicting climate effects of BBpage9418 aerosol in regions controlled by flaming burning of agricultural waste and savannah-like biomass fuels.



Wu, Huihui / Taylor, Jonathan W. / Langridge, Justin M. / et al: Rapid transformation of ambient absorbing aerosols from West African biomass burning. 2021. Copernicus Publications.


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