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  1. Wildfires are an important atmospheric source of primary organic aerosol (POA) and precursors for secondary organic aerosol (SOA) at regional and global scales. However, there are large uncertainties surrounding the emissions and physicochemical processes that control the transformation, evolution, and properties of POA and SOA in large wildfire plumes. We develop a plume version of a kinetic model to simulate the dilution, oxidation chemistry, thermodynamic properties, and microphysics of organic aerosol (OA) in wildfire smoke. The model is applied to study the in-plume OA in four large wildfire smoke plumes intercepted during an aircraft-based field campaign in summer 2018 in the western United States. Based on estimates of dilution and oxidant concentrations before the aircraft first intercepted the plumes, we simulate the OA evolution from very close to the fire to several hours downwind. Our model results and sensitivity simulations suggest that dilution-driven evaporation of POA and simultaneous photochemical production of SOA are likely to explain the observed evolution in OA mass with physical age. The model, however, substantially underestimates the change in the oxygen-to-carbon ratio of the OA compared to measurements. In addition, we show that the rapid chemical transformation within the first hour after emission is driven bymore »higher-than-ambient OH concentrations (3×10 6 -10 7 molecules cm -3 ) and the slower evolution over the next several hours is a result of lower-than-ambient OH concentrations (<10 6 molecules cm -3 ) and depleted SOA precursors. Model predictions indicate that the OA measured several hours downwind of the fire is still dominated by POA but with an SOA fraction that varies between 30% and 56% of the total OA. Semivolatile, heterocyclic, and oxygenated aromatic compounds, in that order, were found to contribute substantially (>90%) to SOA formation. Future work needs to focus on better understanding the dynamic evolution closer to the fire and resolving the rapid change in the oxidation state of OA with physical age.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 15, 2023
  2. Abstract. Brown carbon (BrC) consists of particulate organic species that preferentially absorb light at visible and ultraviolet wavelengths. Ambient studies show that as a component of aerosol particles, BrC affects photochemical reaction rates and regional to global climate. Some organic chromophores are especially toxic, linking BrC to adverse health effects. The lack of direct measurements of BrC has limited our understanding of its prevalence, sources, evolution, and impacts. We describe the first direct, online measurements of water-soluble BrC on research aircraft by three separate instruments. Each instrument measured light absorption over a broad wavelength range using a liquid waveguide capillary cell (LWCC) and grating spectrometer, with particles collected into water by a particle-into-liquid sampler (CSU PILS-LWCC and NOAA PILS-LWCC) or a mist chamber (MC-LWCC). The instruments were deployed on the NSF C-130 aircraft during WE-CAN 2018 as well as the NASA DC-8 and the NOAA Twin Otter aircraft during FIREX-AQ 2019, where they sampled fresh and moderately aged wildfire plumes. Here, we describe the instruments, calibrations, data analysis and corrections for baseline drift and hysteresis. Detection limits (3σ) at 365 nm were 1.53 Mm−1 (MC-LWCC; 2.5 min sampling time), 0.89 Mm−1 (CSU PILS-LWCC; 30 s sampling time), and 0.03 Mm−1 (NOAA PILS-LWCC; 30 s sampling time). Measurementmore »uncertainties were 28 % (MC-LWCC), 12 % (CSU PILS-LWCC), and 11 % (NOAA PILS-LWCC). The MC-LWCC system agreed well with offline measurements from filter samples, with a slope of 0.91 and R2=0.89. Overall, these instruments provide soluble BrC measurements with specificity and geographical coverage that is unavailable by other methods, but their sensitivity and time resolution can be challenging for aircraft studies where large and rapid changes in BrC concentrations may be encountered.« less
  3. The evolution of organic aerosol (OA) and brown carbon (BrC) in wildfire plumes, including the relative contributions of primary versus secondary sources, has been uncertain in part because of limited knowledge of the precursor emissions and the chemical environment of smoke plumes. We made airborne measurements of a suite of reactive trace gases, particle composition, and optical properties in fresh western US wildfire smoke in July through August 2018. We use these observations to quantify primary versus secondary sources of biomass-burning OA (BBPOA versus BBSOA) and BrC in wildfire plumes. When a daytime wildfire plume dilutes by a factor of 5 to 10, we estimate that up to one-third of the primary OA has evaporated and subsequently reacted to form BBSOA with near unit yield. The reactions of measured BBSOA precursors contribute only 13 ± 3% of the total BBSOA source, with evaporated BBPOA comprising the rest. We find that oxidation of phenolic compounds contributes the majority of BBSOA from emitted vapors. The corresponding particulate nitrophenolic compounds are estimated to explain 29 ± 15% of average BrC light absorption at 405 nm (BrC Abs405) measured in the first few hours of plume evolution, despite accounting for just 4 ± 2%more »of average OA mass. These measurements provide quantitative constraints on the role of dilution-driven evaporation of OA and subsequent radical-driven oxidation on the fate of biomass-burning OA and BrC in daytime wildfire plumes and point to the need to understand how processing of nighttime emissions differs.

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