Exploring the sources of light-absorbing carbonaceous aerosols by integrating observational and modeling results: insights from Northeast China

Cheng, Yuan; Cao, Xu-bing; Zhu, Sheng-qiang; Zhang, Zhi-qing; Liu, Jiu-meng; Zhang, Hong-liang; Zhang, Qiang; He, Ke-bin

Light-absorbing carbonaceous aerosols are important contributors to both air pollution and radiative forcing. However, their abundances and sources are still subject to non-negligible uncertainties, which are highly responsible for the frequently-identified discrepancies between the observed and modeled results. In this study, we focused on elemental carbon (EC) and light-absorbing organic carbon (i.e., BrC) in Northeast China, a new targeted region of the latest clean air actions in China. Three campaigns were conducted during 2018‒2021 in Harbin, covering distinct meteorological conditions and emission features. Various analytical methods were first evaluated, and the mass concentrations of both BrC and EC were validated. The validated BrC and EC measurement results were then used for source apportionment, together with other species including tracers (e.g., levoglucosan). The observation-based results suggested that despite the frigid winter in Harbin, the formation of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) was enhanced at high levels of relative humidity (RH). This enhancement could also be captured by an air quality model incorporating heterogeneous chemistry. However, the model failed to reproduce the observed abundances of SOA, with significant underestimations regardless of RH levels. In addition, agricultural fires effectively increased the observation-based primary organic carbon (POC) concentrations and POC to EC ratios. Such roles of agricultural fires were not captured by the model, pointing to substantial underestimation of open burning emissions by the inventory. This problem merits particular attention for Northeast China, given its massive agricultural sector.

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Cheng, Yuan / Cao, Xu-bing / Zhu, Sheng-qiang / et al: Exploring the sources of light-absorbing carbonaceous aerosols by integrating observational and modeling results: insights from Northeast China. 2024. Copernicus Publications.

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