Characterizing the Chemical Complexity of Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds from Biomass Burning in Amazonia
Abstract:Aerosols are a source of great uncertainty in radiative forcing predictions and have poorly understood impacts on human health. In many environments, biomass burning contributes a significant source of primary aerosol as well as reactive gas-phase precursors that can form secondary organic aerosol (SOA). One class of these precursors, semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs), has been shown to have a large contribution to the amount of SOA formed from fire emissions. At present, SVOC emissions from biomass burning are poorly constrained and understanding their contributions to SOA formation is an important research challenge.
In the Amazonian dry season, biomass burning is a major source of gases and aerosols reducing regional air quality. As part of the GoAmazon 2014/5 field campaign, we deployed the Semi-Volatile Thermal desorption Aerosol Gas Chromatograph (SV-TAG) instrument at the rural T3 site, 60 km to the west of Manaus, Brazil to measure hourly concentrations of SVOCs in the gas and particle phases. This comprehensive technique detects thousands of compounds, enabling the discovery of previously unidentified compounds. In this work we explore compounds for which a correlation with well-known biomass burning tracers is observed to discover the identities of new tracers. We discuss contributions to the total organic aerosol from well-known, rarely reported and newly-identified biomass burning tracers. We find that levoglucosan, perhaps the most commonly used particle phase biomass burning tracer, contributed 0.6% and 0.3% of total organic aerosol in the dry and wet seasons, respectively.