12 Apr 2023
 | 12 Apr 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion and under review for Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Evaluation of aerosol- and gas-phase tracers for identification of transported biomass burning emissions in an industrially influenced location in Texas, USA

Sujan Shrestha, Shan Zhou, Manisha Mehra, Meghan C. Guagenti, Subin Yoon, Sergio L. Alvarez, Fangzhou Guo, Chun-Ying Chao, James H. Flynn III, Yuxuan Wang, Robert J. Griffin, Sascha Usenko, and Rebecca J. Sheesley

Abstract. As criteria pollutants from anthropogenic emissions have declined in the US in the last two decades, biomass burning (BB) emissions are becoming more important for urban air quality. Tracking the transported BB emissions and their impacts is challenging, especially in areas that are also burdened by anthropogenic sources like the Texas Gulf coast. During the Corpus Christi and San Antonio (CCSA) field campaign in Spring 2021, two long-range transport BB events (BB1 and BB2) were identified. The observed patterns of absorption Ångström Exponent (AAE), high-resolution time-of-flight aerosol mass spectrometer (HR-ToF-AMS) BB tracer (f60), equivalent black carbon (eBC), acetonitrile and carbon monoxide (CO) during BB1 and BB2 indicated differences in the mixing of transported BB plumes with local anthropogenic sources. The combined information from HYSPLIT backward trajectory (BTs) and satellite observations revealed that BB1 had mixed influence of transported smoke plumes from fires in Central Mexico, the Yucatan peninsula, and the Central US, whereas BB2 was influenced majorly by fires in the Central US. The estimated transport time of smoke from the Mexican fires and the Central US fires to our study site were not too different (48–54 hours and 24–36 hours, respectively) and both events appeared to have undergone similar levels of atmospheric processing, as evident in the elemental ratios of bulk organic aerosol (OA). We observed a progression of f44 vs. f60 as a function of time elapsed during BB2. Positive matrix factorization (PMF) analysis of OA showed that BB1 had a mixture of organics from aged BB emission with an anthropogenic marine signal while the oxidized organic compounds from aged BB emissions dominated the aerosols during BB2. While aerosol measurements exhibited good agreement with respect to the BB designation, the CO and acetonitrile trends revealed more complicated source contributions. Our analysis from mobile and stationary measurements highlights that both CO and acetonitrile are likely impacted by local sources even during the BB events and specifically that acetonitrile cannot be used as a unique BB tracer for dilute BB plumes in an industrially influenced location. Finally, we provide evidence of the potential regional impacts of these transported BB events on urban O3 levels using measurements from the surface air quality monitoring network in Texas.

Sujan Shrestha et al.

Status: open (extended)

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  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-367', Anonymous Referee #1, 22 May 2023 reply

Sujan Shrestha et al.


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Short summary
We evaluated different methods for assessing the influence of long range transport of biomass burning (BB) plumes at a coastal site in Texas, USA. We show that the aerosol composition and optical properties exhibited good agreement while CO and acetonitrile trends were less specific for assessing BB source influence. Our results demonstrate that the network of aerosol optical measurements can be useful to identify the influence of aged BB plumes in anthropogenically-influenced areas.