Constraining Absorption of Organic Aerosol from Biomass Burning with Observations

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Yan Feng, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL, United States and Xiaohong Liu, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY, United States
Biomass burning emissions contribute to a large fraction of global organic aerosol (OA) emissions. In most models, radiative forcing of black carbon (BC) and OA from biomass burning offsets each other to give a small or close to zero total forcing, i.e., an estimate of 0 (-0.2 to +0.2) W m-2 by IPCC-AR5. Recent observational and modeling studies have shown the absorbing part of OA, referred to as “brown” carbon (BrC), to be a significant source of direct absorption of solar radiation thus positive forcing, in particular over regions dominated by biomass burning and biofuel emissions. Here we implement optical treatment for the BrC absorption in the CESM1/CAM5 model, and compare the calculated aerosol spectral absorption with ground-based AERONET and DOE/ARM observations. In this version of CAM5, biomass burning and biofuel OA are treated separately from fossil fuel OA with different imaginary refractive index. Because the absorption of BrC is highly variable and uncertain depending on source, aging, and mixing state, sensitivity studies of BrC refractive index parameterized by fuel type and ratio of BC to OA mass will be examined and the resulting uncertainty in the estimated forcing will be discussed. Preliminary results suggest the simulated wavelength dependence of aerosol absorption, as measured by the absorption Ångström exponent (AAE), increases from 0.9 for non-absorbing OA to 1.2 (or 1.0) for strongly (or moderately) absorbing BrC. The AAE calculated for the strongly absorbing BrC agrees with AERONET spectral observations at 440–870 nm over most regions but overpredicts for the open biomass burning-dominated South America and southern Africa, in which inclusion of moderately absorbing BrC exhibits better agreement.