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An Improved Absorption Ångström Exponent (AAE)-Based Method for Evaluating the Contribution of Light Absorption from Brown Carbon with a High-time Resolution

Category: Optical/Radiative Properties and Remote Sensing

Accepted Manuscripts
DOI: 10.4209/aaqr.2017.12.0566
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Guohua Zhang 1, Long Peng1,2, Xiufeng Lian1,2, Qinhao Lin1, Xinhui Bi1, Duohong Chen3, Mei Li4, Lei Li4, Xinming Wang1, Guoying Sheng1

  • 1 State Key Laboratory of Organic Geochemistry and Guangdong Key Laboratory of Environmental Resources Utilization and Protection, Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou 510640, China
  • 2 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100039, China
  • 3 State Environmental Protection Key Laboratory of Regional Air Quality Monitoring, Guangdong Environmental Monitoring Center, Guangzhou 510308, China
  • 4 Institute of Mass Spectrometer and Atmospheric Environment, Jinan University, Guangzhou 510632, China


Light absorption coefficient (σ) of ambient/heated aerosols were measured.
The AAE-based method was improved to evaluate the σ of brown carbon (σabs,BrC).
The estimated σabs,BrC is > 20% larger than that estimated by assuming AAE = 1.
AAE around 0.7 for “pure” BC is suggested to evaluate σabs,BrC in the PRD region.


While brown carbon (BrC) might play a substantially important role in radiative forcing, an estimation of its light absorption contribution with high-time resolution is still challenging. In this study, a multi-wavelength (370–950 nm) Aethalometer was applied to obtain the wavelength dependent light absorption coefficient (σabs) of aerosols, before and after heated to 250°C. An improved absorption Ångström exponent (AAE) based method was developed to evaluate the contribution of BrC to light absorption at the wavelength of 370 nm (σabs,BrCabs,370nm). The σabs,BC at the wavelength of 370 nm was determined from the field measured AAE over the wavelength of 880–950 nm with one-hour resolution. The simultaneous measurements of heated aerosols help confirm the negligible influence of BrC on the σabs over 880–950 nm. Meanwhile, σabs,BrCabs,370nm was also estimated by the previously reported methods by assuming AAE to be one (Method I) and based on the light absorption enhancement (Method II). While the estimated σabs,BrCabs,370nm based on our developed method and Method I is highly correlated (r2 = 0.78), the difference could be as large as > 20% on average. The mean σabs,BrC/σabs,370nm was obtained to be negative with Method II, indicative of net production of BrC when the aerosols were heated. The difference of the σabs,BrCabs,370nm obtained by our developed method and Method II was ~40% on average and much higher (> 50%) during noon hours, when secondary organic aerosols and sulfate were abundant. We propose that it is more suitable to use AAE around 0.7 for “pure” BC to evaluate the contribution of BrC to light absorption in the PRD region. The developed method would help improve the understanding on the light absorption and climate forcing of BrC.


Brown carbon Black carbon Light absorption Absorption Ångström exponent Aethalometer PRD region

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