Lifecycle of light-absorbing carbonaceous aerosols in the atmosphere
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Lifecycle of light-absorbing carbonaceous aerosols in the atmosphere

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  • Journal Title:
    Nature Climate and Atmospheric Science
  • Description:
    Light-absorbing carbonaceous aerosols (LACs), including black carbon and light-absorbing organic carbon (brown carbon, BrC), have an important role in the Earth system via heating the atmosphere, dimming the surface, modifying the dynamics, reducing snow/ice albedo, and exerting positive radiative forcing. The lifecycle of LACs, from emission to atmospheric evolution further to deposition, is key to their overall climate impacts and uncertainties in determining their hygroscopic and optical properties, atmospheric burden, interactions with clouds, and deposition on the snowpack. At present, direct observations constraining some key processes during the lifecycle of LACs (e.g., interactions between LACs and hydrometeors) are rather limited. Large inconsistencies between directly measured LAC properties and those used for model evaluations also exist. Modern models are starting to incorporate detailed aerosol microphysics to evaluate transformation rates of water solubility, chemical composition, optical properties, and phases of LACs, which have shown improved model performance. However, process-level understanding and modeling are still poor particularly for BrC, and yet to be sufficiently assessed due to lack of global-scale direct measurements. Appropriate treatments of size- and composition-resolved processes that influence both LAC microphysics and aerosol–cloud interactions are expected to advance the quantification of aerosol light absorption and climate impacts in the Earth system. This review summarizes recent advances and up-to-date knowledge on key processes during the lifecycle of LACs, highlighting the essential issues where measurements and modeling need improvement.
  • Source:
    npj Climate and Atmospheric Science volume 3, Article number: 40 (2020)
  • Document Type:
  • Rights Information:
    CC BY
  • Compliance:
    Submitted
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