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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2023
  2. Abstract. Light absorbing organic carbon, or brown carbon (BrC), can be a significantcontributor to the visible light absorption budget. However, the sources ofBrC and the contributions of BrC to light absorption are not wellunderstood. Biomass burning is thought to be a major source of BrC.Therefore, as part of the WE-CAN (Western Wildfire Experiment for CloudChemistry, Aerosol Absorption and Nitrogen) study, BrC absorption data werecollected on board the National Science Foundation/National Center for Atmospheric Research (NSF/NCAR) C-130 aircraft as it intercepted smoke fromwildfires in the western US in July–August 2018. BrC absorptionmeasurements were obtained in near real-time using two techniques. The firstcoupled a particle-into-liquid sampler (PILS) with a liquid waveguidecapillary cell and a total organic carbon analyzer for measurements ofwater-soluble BrC absorption and WSOC (water-soluble organic carbon). Thesecond employed a custom-built photoacoustic aerosol absorption spectrometer(PAS) to measure total absorption at 405 and 660 nm. The PAS BrC absorption at 405 nm (PAS total Abs 405 BrC) was calculated by assuming the absorption determined by the PAS at 660 nm was equivalent to the black carbon (BC) absorption and the BC aerosol absorption Ångström exponent was 1. Data from the PILS and PAS were combined to investigate the water-soluble vs. total BrC absorption at 405 nm inmore »the various wildfire plumes sampled during WE-CAN. WSOC, PILS water-soluble Abs 405, and PAS total Abs 405 tracked each other in and out of the smoke plumes. BrC absorption was correlated with WSOC (R2 value for PAS =0.42 and PILS =0.60) and CO (carbon monoxide) (R2 value for PAS =0.76 and PILS =0.55) for all wildfires sampled. The PILS water-soluble Abs 405 was corrected for thenon-water-soluble fraction of the aerosol using the calculated UHSAS(ultra-high-sensitivity aerosol spectrometer) aerosol mass. The correctedPILS water-soluble Abs 405 showed good closure with the PAS total Abs 405BrC with a factor of ∼1.5 to 2 difference. This differencewas explained by particle vs. bulk solution absorption measured by the PASvs. PILS, respectively, and confirmed by Mie theory calculations. DuringWE-CAN, ∼ 45 % (ranging from 31 % to 65 %) of the BrCabsorption was observed to be due to water-soluble species. The ratio of BrC absorption to WSOC or ΔCO showed no clear dependence on firedynamics or the time since emission over 9 h.« less
  3. 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
  4. 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
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