Size-dependent wet removal of black carbon in Canadian biomass burning plumes

Jonathan Taylor, J. D. Allan, G. Allen, H. Coe, P. I. Williams, M. J. Flynn, M. Le Breton, Jennifer Muller, C. J. Percival, D. Oram, G. Forster, J. D. Lee, A. R. Rickard, M. Parrington, P. I. Palmer

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    Wet deposition is the dominant mechanism for removing black carbon (BC) from the atmosphere and is key in determining its atmospheric lifetime, vertical gradient and global transport. Despite the importance of BC in the climate system, especially in terms of its ability to modulate the radiative energy budget, there are few quantitative case studies of wet removal in ambient environments. We present a case study of BC wet removal by examining aerosol size distributions and BC coating properties sampled in three Canadian boreal biomass burning plumes, one of which passed through a precipitating cloud. This depleted the majority of the plume's BC mass, and the largest and most coated BC-containing particles were found to be preferentially removed, suggesting that nucleation scavenging was likely the dominant mechanism. Calculated single-scattering albedo (SSA) showed little variation, as a large number of non-BC particles were also present in the precipitation-affected plume. The remaining BC cores were smaller than those observed in previous studies of BC in post-precipitation outflow over Asia, possibly due to the thick coating by hydrophilic compounds associated with the Canadian biomass burning particles. This study provides measurements of BC size, mixing state and removal efficiency to constrain model parameterisations of BC wet removal in biomass burning regions, which will help to reduce uncertainty in radiative forcing calculations.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)13755-13771
    Number of pages17
    JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
    Issue number24
    Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2014


    • soot
    • black carbon
    • biomass burning
    • aerosols


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