Urban impacts on regional carbonaceous aerosols: Case study in central Texas

2014-08-31T08:20:09Z (GMT) by Tate E. Barrett Rebecca J. Sheesley

Rural and background sites provide valuable information on the concentration and optical properties of organic, elemental, and water-soluble organic carbon (OC, EC, and WSOC), which are relevant for understanding the climate forcing potential of regional atmospheric aerosols. To quantify climate- and air quality-relevant characteristics of carbonaceous aerosol in the central United States, a regional background site in central Texas was chosen for long-term measurement. Back trajectory (BT) analysis, ambient OC, EC, and WSOC concentrations and absorption parameters are reported for the first 15 months of a long-term campaign (May 2011–August 2012). BT analysis indicates consistent north–south airflow connecting central Texas to the Central Plains. Central Texas aerosols exhibited seasonal trends with increased fine particulate matter (<2.5 μm aerodynamic diameter, PM2.5) and OC during the summer (PM2.5 = 10.9 μg m−3 and OC = 3.0 μg m−3) and elevated EC during the winter (0.22 μg m−3). When compared to measurements in Dallas and Houston, TX, central Texas OC appears to have mixed urban and rural sources. However, central Texas EC appears to be dominated by transport of urban emissions. WSOC averaged 63% of the annual OC, with little seasonal variability in this ratio. To monitor brown carbon (BrC), absorption was measured for the aqueous WSOC extracts. Light absorption coefficients for EC and BrC were highest during summer (EC MAC = 11 m2 g−1 and BRC MAE365 = 0.15 m2 g−1). Results from optical analysis indicate that regional aerosol absorption is mostly due to EC with summertime peaks in BrC attenuation. This study represents the first reported values of WSOC absorption, MAE365, for the central United States.

Implications:

Background concentration and absorption measurements are essential in determining regional potential radiative forcing due to atmospheric aerosols. Back trajectory, chemical, and optical analysis of PM2.5 was used to determine climatic and air quality implications of urban outflow to a regional receptor site, representative of the central United States. Results indicate that central Texas organic carbon has mixed urban and rural sources, while elemental carbon is controlled by the transport of urban emissions. Analysis of aerosol absorption showed black carbon as the dominant absorber, with less brown carbon absorption than regional studies in California and the southeastern United States.

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CC BY 4.0