Changes in Absorbing Aerosol Properties during Transport in the Southeast Atlantic
Biomass burning (BB) is one of the largest sources of absorbing aerosols globally and accounts for about 40% of black carbon in the atmosphere. The Southern African region contributes approximately 35% of Earth’s BB aerosol emissions. During the Southern Hemisphere winter, smoke is transported over the southeast Atlantic Ocean, overlying and mixing with a semi-permanent stratocumulus cloud deck. Aerosol-cloud interactions contribute the largest uncertainty to anthropogenic forcing, and the southeast Atlantic region exhibits a large model-to-model divergence of climate forcing. This makes the region particularly valuable for understanding these interactions and was one of the factors motivating the three-year NASA ORACLES (ObseRvations of Aerosols above CLouds and their intEractionS) mission. Previous studies using ORACLES datasets have explored the distribution of aerosol and cloud particles, however, changes in some aerosol properties during transport are not well documented.
This study investigates the evolution of biomass burning aerosol properties from emission within Southern Africa, transport over land, and then over the Atlantic. Measurements from a collection of airborne in situ and remote-sensing instruments including 4STAR (Spectrometer for Sky-Scanning, Sun-Tracking Atmospheric Research) along with ground-based AERONET (Aerosol Robotic Network) are combined with results from two regional models, the WRF-AAM and WRF-CAM5 to explore the changes in the optical properties of these smoke plumes as they age. The aerosol age is determined using tracers from the WRF-AAM configured with 12 km resolution over the region’s spatial domain (41 ºS – 14 ºN, 34 ºW – 51 ºE). Changes in extinction, single scattering Albedo (SSA) and angstrom exponent (AE) with age as well as a comparative analysis between observations and model results were carried out using datasets from airborne PSAP (Particle Soot Absorption Photometer) and nephelometers, 4STAR, AERONET, and WRF-CAM5.