Black carbon absorption at the global scale is affected by particle-scale diversity in composition

Laura Fierce, Tami C. Bond, Susanne E. Bauer, Francisco Mena, Nicole Riemer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Atmospheric black carbon (BC) exerts a strong, but uncertain, warming effect on the climate. BC that is coated with non-absorbing material absorbs more strongly than the same amount of BC in an uncoated particle, but the magnitude of this absorption enhancement (E abs) is not well constrained. Modelling studies and laboratory measurements have found stronger absorption enhancement than has been observed in the atmosphere. Here, using a particle-resolved aerosol model to simulate diverse BC populations, we show that absorption is overestimated by as much as a factor of two if diversity is neglected and population-averaged composition is assumed across all BC-containing particles. If, instead, composition diversity is resolved, we find E abs =1 '1.5 at low relative humidity, consistent with ambient observations. This study offers not only an explanation for the discrepancy between modelled and observed absorption enhancement, but also demonstrates how particle-scale simulations can be used to develop relationships for global-scale models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12361
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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