National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2009

Boundary layer aerosol chemistry during TexAQS/GoMACCS 2006: Insights into aerosol sources and transformation processes

Bates, T., P. Quinn, D. Coffman, K. Schulz, D.S. Covert, J.E. Johnson, E.J. Williams, B.M. Lerner, W.M. Angevine, S. Tucker, W.A. Brewer, and A. Stohl

J. Geophys. Res., 113, D00F01, doi: 10.1029/2008JD010023 (2008)

The air quality and climate forcing impacts of atmospheric aerosols in a metropolitan region depend on the amount, composition, and size of the aerosol transported into the region; the input and removal of aerosols and aerosol precursors within the region; and the subsequent chemical processing in the atmosphere. These factors were studied in the Houston-Galveston-Gulf of Mexico region, aboard the NOAA R/V Ronald H. Brown during the Texas Air Quality Study and Gulf of Mexico Atmospheric Composition and Climate Study (TexAQS/GoMACCS 2006). The aerosol measured in the Gulf of Mexico during onshore flow (low radon concentrations indicating no contact with land for several days) was highly impacted by Saharan dust and what appear to be ship emissions (acidic sulfate and nitrate). Mean (median) mass concentrations of the total submicrometer and supermicrometer aerosol were 6.5 (4.6) μg m−3 and 17.2 (8.7) μg m−3, respectively. These mass loadings of “background” aerosol are much higher than typically observed in the marine atmosphere and thus have a substantial impact on the radiative energy balance over the Gulf of Mexico and particulate matter (PM) loadings (air quality) in the Houston-Galveston area. As this background aerosol moved onshore, local urban and industrial sources added an organic rich submicrometer component (66% particulate organic matter (POM), 20% sulfate, 14% elemental carbon) but no significant supermicrometer aerosol. The resulting aerosol had mean (median) mass concentrations of the total submicrometer and supermicrometer aerosol of 10.0 (9.1) μg m−3 and 16.8 (11.2) μg m−3, respectively. These air masses, with minimal processing of urban emissions contained the highest SO2/(SO2 + SO4 =) ratios and the highest hydrocarbon-like organic aerosol to total organic aerosol ratios (HOA/POM). In contrast, during periods of offshore flow, the aerosol was more processed and, therefore, much richer in oxygenated organic aerosol (OOA). Mean (median) mass concentrations of the total submicrometer and supermicrometer aerosol were 20.8 (18.6) μg m−3 and 7.4 (5.0) μg m−3, respectively. Sorting air masses based on their trajectories and time over land provides a means to examine the effects of transport and subsequent chemical processing. Understanding and parameterizing these processes is critical for the chemical transport modeling that forms the basis for air quality forecasts and radiative forcing calculations.

Feature Publications | Outstanding Scientific Publications

Contact Sandra Bigley |