National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2003

Characterization of carbonaceous aerosols outflow from India and Arabia: Biomass/biofuel burning and fossil fuel combustion

Guazzotti, S.A., D.T. Suess, K.R. Coffee, P.K. Quinn, T.S. Bates, A. Wisthaler, A. Hansel, W.P. Ball, R.R. Dickerson, C. Neusüß, P.J. Crutzen, and K.A. Prather

J. Geophys. Res., 108(D15), 4485, doi: 10.1029/2002JD003277 (2003)

A major objective of the Indian Ocean Experiment (INDOEX) involves the characterization of the extent and chemical composition of pollution outflow from the Indian Subcontinent during the winter monsoon. During this season, low-level flow from the continent transports pollutants over the Indian Ocean toward the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). Traditional standardized aerosol particle chemical analysis, together with real-time single particle and fast-response gas-phase measurements provided characterization of the sampled aerosol chemical properties. The gas- and particle-phase chemical compositions of encountered air parcels changed according to their geographic origin, which was traced by back trajectory analysis. The temporal evolutions of acetonitrile, a long-lived specific tracer for biomass/biofuel burning, number concentration of submicrometer carbon-containing particles with potassium (indicative of combustion sources), and mass concentration of submicrometer non-seasalt (nss) potassium are compared. High correlation coefficients (0.84 < r < 0.92) are determined for these comparisons indicating that most likely the majority of the species evolve from the same, related, or proximate sources. Aerosol and trace gas measurements provide evidence that emissions from fossil fuel and biomass/biofuel burning are subject to long-range transport, thereby contributing to anthropogenic pollution even in areas downwind of South Asia. Specifically, high concentrations of submicrometer nss potassium, carbon-containing particles with potassium, and acetonitrile are observed in air masses advected from the Indian subcontinent, indicating a strong impact of biomass/biofuel burning in India during the sampling periods (74 (±9)% biomass/biofuel contribution to submicrometer carbonaceous aerosol). In contrast, lower values for these same species were measured in air masses from the Arabian Peninsula, where dominance of fossil fuel combustion is suggested by results from single-particle analysis and supported by results from gas-phase measurements (63 (±9))% fossil fuel contribution to submicrometer carbonaceous aerosol). Results presented here demonstrate the importance of simultaneous, detailed gas- and particle-phase measurements of related species when evaluating possible source contributions to aerosols in different regions of the world.

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