National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2021

North Atlantic marine organic aerosol characterized by novel offline thermal desorption mass spectrometry approach: polysaccharides, recalcitrant material, and secondary organics

Lawler, M.J., S.L. Lewis, L.M. Russell, P.K. Quinn, T.S. Bates, D.J. Coffman, L.M. Upchurch, and E.S. Saltzman

Atmos. Chem. Phys., 20, 16007–16022, doi: 10.5194/acp-20-16007-2020, View online (open access) (2020)

The composition of organic compounds in marine aerosols and the relative contributions of primary and secondary organic compounds remain uncertain. We report results from a novel approach to characterize and quantify organic components of the marine aerosol. Size-segregated discrete aerosol filter samples were collected at sea in the North Atlantic from both ambient aerosol and artificially generated primary sea spray over four cruises timed to capture the seasonal phytoplankton bloom dynamics. Samples were analyzed by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), extracted into water, and analyzed by offline thermal desorption chemical ionization mass spectrometry (TDCIMS) and ion chromatography (IC). A positive matrix factorization (PMF) analysis identified several characteristic aerosol components in the TDCIMS mass spectra. Among these is a polysaccharide factor representing about 10 %–30 % of the submicron organic aerosol mass. Aerosol polysaccharide : sodium mass ratios were consistently higher in ambient air than in the artificially generated sea spray, and we hypothesize that this results from more rapid wet deposition of sodium-rich aerosol. An unquantified recalcitrant factor of highly thermally stable organics showed significant correlation with FTIR-measured alcohol groups, consistently the main organic functional group associated with sea spray aerosol. We hypothesize that this factor represents recalcitrant dissolved organic matter (DOM) in seawater and that by extension alcohol functional groups identified in marine aerosol may more typically represent recalcitrant DOM rather than biogenic saccharide-like material, contrary to inferences made in previous studies. The recalcitrant factor showed little seasonal variability in its contribution to primary marine aerosol. The relative contribution of polysaccharides was highest in late spring and summer in the smallest particle size fraction characterized (<180 nm).

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