Atmospheric chemistry and physics | 2021
Observations of supermicron-sized aerosols originating from biomass burning in southern Central Africa
During the 3 years of the ObseRvations of Aerosols above CLouds and their intEractionS (ORACLES) campaign, the NASA Orion P-3 was equipped with a 2D stereo (2D-S) probe that imaged particles with maximum dimension (D) ranging from 10 < D < 1280 μm. The 2D-S recorded supermicron-sized aerosol particles (SAPs) outside of clouds within biomass burning plumes during flights over the southeastern Atlantic off Africa’s coast. Numerous SAPs with 10 < D < 1520 μm were observed in 2017 and 2018 at altitudes between 1230 and 4000 m, 1000 km from the coastline, mostly between 7–11° S. No SAPs were observed in 2016 as flights were conducted further south and further from the coastline. Number concentrations of refractory black carbon (rBC) measured by a single particle soot photometer ranged from 200 to 1200 cm−3 when SAPs were observed. Transmission electron microscopy images of submicron particulates, collected on Holey carbon grid filters, revealed particles with potassium salts, black carbon (BC), and organics. Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy spectra also detected potassium, a tracer for biomass burning. These measurements provided evidence that the submicron particles originated from biomass burning. NOAA Hybrid Single-Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory (HYSPLIT) 3 d back trajectories show a source in northern Angola for times when large SAPs were observed. Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) 6 active fire maps showed extensive biomass burning at these locations. Given the back trajectories, the high number concentrations of rBC, and the presence of elemental tracers indicative of biomass burning, it is hypothesized that the SAPs imaged by the 2D-S are examples of BC aerosol, ash, or unburned plant material.