Contribution of Brown Carbon to Direct Radiative Forcing over the Indo-Gangetic Plain.


The Indo-Gangetic Plain is a region of known high aerosol loading with substantial amounts of carbonaceous aerosols from a variety of sources, often dominated by biomass burning. Although black carbon has been shown to play an important role in the absorption of solar energy and hence direct radiative forcing (DRF), little is known regarding the influence of light absorbing brown carbon (BrC) on the radiative balance in the region. With this in mind, a study was conducted for a one month period during the winter-spring season of 2013 in Kanpur, India that measured aerosol chemical and physical properties that were used to estimate the sources of carbonaceous aerosols, as well as parameters necessary to estimate direct forcing by aerosols and the contribution of BrC absorption to the atmospheric energy balance. Positive matrix factorization analyses, based on aerosol mass spectrometer measurements, resolved organic carbon into four factors including low-volatile oxygenated organic aerosols, semivolatile oxygenated organic aerosols, biomass burning, and hydrocarbon like organic aerosols. Three-wavelength absorption and scattering coefficient measurements from a Photo Acoustic Soot Spectrometer were used to estimate aerosol optical properties and estimate the relative contribution of BrC to atmospheric absorption. Mean ± standard deviation values of short-wave cloud free clear sky DRF exerted by total aerosols at the top of atmosphere, surface and within the atmospheric column are -6.1 ± 3.2, -31.6 ± 11, and 25.5 ± 10.2 W/m(2), respectively. During days dominated by biomass burning the absorption of solar energy by aerosols within the atmosphere increased by ∼35%, accompanied by a 25% increase in negative surface DRF. DRF at the top of atmosphere during biomass burning days decreased in negative magnitude by several W/m(2) due to enhanced atmospheric absorption by biomass aerosols, including BrC. The contribution of BrC to atmospheric absorption is estimated to range from on average 2.6 W/m(2) for typical ambient conditions to 3.6 W/m(2) during biomass burning days. This suggests that BrC accounts for 10-15% of the total aerosol absorption in the atmosphere, indicating that BrC likely plays an important role in surface and boundary temperature as well as climate.