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Chen, SJ, Russell LM, Cappa CD, Zhang XL, Kleeman MJ, Kumar A, Liu D, Ramanathana V.  2019.  Comparing black and brown carbon absorption from AERONET and surface measurements at wintertime Fresno. Atmospheric Environment. 199:164-176.   10.1016/j.atmosenv.2018.11.032   AbstractWebsite

The radiative impacts of black carbon (BC) and brown carbon (BrC) are widely recognized but remain highly uncertain. The Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET) provides measurements of aerosol optical depth (AOD), aerosol absorption optical depth (AAOD), and other parameters. AERONET AAOD measurements have been used to estimate the relative contributions of BC and BrC to the total absorption at select sites and have the potential to be used across the global network, but the accuracy of the partitioning method has not been established and the uncertainties not characterized. We made surface-level measurements of aerosol optical properties from January 13 to February 10, 2013, and from December 25, 2014, to January 13, 2015, at Fresno, California. The contribution of BrC and BC to the absorption at 405 nm was estimated from the surface-level measurements using a combined mass absorption coefficient and thermodenuder method. The surface-level measurements were compared with BC and BrC absorption at 440 nm estimated from AERONET measurements of the absolute AAOD and the absorption angstrom ngstrom exponent (AERONET-AAE method). In 2013, AERONET results showed that BC and BrC contributed 67% and 33%, respectively, of absorption at 440 nm while the surface-level measurements showed that BC and BrC contributed 89% and 11%, respectively, of absorption at 405 nm. In 2014, AERONET results showed BC and BrC absorption were 72% and 28%, respectively, and the BC and BrC surface measurements were 68% and 32%, respectively. The boundary layer conditions showed that the comparison between AERONET measurements and surface-based estimates was more appropriate in 2014 than in 2013. As a result, AERONET measurements and surface-based estimates had strong or moderate correlations and slopes near unity in 2014. Thus, surface measurements were more representative of column BC and BrC absorption in 2014.

Bahadur, R, Praveen PS, Xu YY, Ramanathan V.  2012.  Solar absorption by elemental and brown carbon determined from spectral observations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 109:17366-17371.   10.1073/pnas.1205910109   AbstractWebsite

Black carbon (BC) is functionally defined as the absorbing component of atmospheric total carbonaceous aerosols (TC) and is typically dominated by soot-like elemental carbon (EC). However, organic carbon (OC) has also been shown to absorb strongly at visible to UV wavelengths and the absorbing organics are referred to as brown carbon (BrC), which is typically not represented in climate models. We propose an observationally based analytical method for rigorously partitioning measured absorption aerosol optical depths (AAOD) and single scattering albedo (SSA) among EC and BrC, using multiwavelength measurements of total (EC, OC, and dust) absorption. EC is found to be strongly absorbing (SSA of 0.38) whereas the BrC SSA varies globally between 0.77 and 0.85. The method is applied to the California region. We find TC (EC + BrC) contributes 81% of the total absorption at 675 nm and 84% at 440 nm. The BrC absorption at 440 nm is about 40% of the EC, whereas at 675 nm it is less than 10% of EC. We find an enhanced absorption due to OC in the summer months and in southern California (related to forest fires and secondary OC). The fractions and trends are broadly consistent with aerosol chemical-transport models as well as with regional emission inventories, implying that we have obtained a representative estimate for BrC absorption. The results demonstrate that current climate models that treat OC as nonabsorbing are underestimating the total warming effect of carbonaceous aerosols by neglecting part of the atmospheric heating, particularly over biomass-burning regions that emit BrC.