Photolytically induced changes in composition and volatility of biogenic secondary organic aerosol from nitrate radical oxidation during night-to-day transition
Night-time reactions of biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs) and nitrate radicals (NO3) can lead to the formation of NO3-initiated biogenic secondary organic aerosol (BSOANO(3)). Here, we study the impacts of light exposure on the chemical composition and volatility of BSOANO(3) formed in the dark from three precursors (isoprene, alpha-pinene, and beta-caryophyllene) in atmospheric simulation chamber experiments. Our study represents BSOANO(3) formation conditions where reactions between peroxy radicals (RO2 + RO2) and between RO2 and NO3 are favoured. The emphasis here is on the identification of particle-phase organonitrates (ONs) formed in the dark and their changes during photolytic ageing on timescales of similar to 1 h. The chemical composition of particle-phase compounds was measured with a chemical ionization mass spectrometer with a filter inlet for gases and aerosols (FIGAERO-CIMS) and an extractive electrospray ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometer (EESI-TOF). Volatility information on BSOANO(3) was derived from FIGAERO-CIMS desorption profiles (thermograms) and a volatility tandem differential mobility analyser (VTDMA). During photolytic ageing, there was a relatively small change in mass due to evaporation (< 5 % for the isoprene and alpha-pinene BSOANO3, and 12 % for the beta-caryophyllene BSOANO(3)), but we observed significant changes in the chemical composition of the BSOANO(3). Overall, 48 %, 44 %, and 60 % of the respective total signal for the isoprene, alpha-pinene, and beta-caryophyllene BSOANO(3) was sensitive to photolytic ageing and exhibited decay. The photolabile compounds include both monomers and oligomers. Oligomers can decompose into their monomer units through photolysis of the bonds (e.g. likely O-O) between them. Fragmentation of both oligomers and monomers also happened at other positions, causing the formation of compounds with shorter carbon skeletons. The cleavage of the nitrate functional group from the carbon chain was likely not a main degradation pathway in our experiments. In addition, photolytic degradation of compounds changes their volatility and can lead to evaporation. We use different methods to assess bulk volatilities and discuss their changes during both dark ageing and photolysis in the context of the chemical changes that we observed. We also reveal large uncertainties in saturation vapour pressure estimated from parameterizations for the ON oligomers with multiple nitrate groups. Overall, our results suggest that photolysis causes photodegradation of a substantial fraction of BSOANO(3), changes both the chemical composition and the bulk volatility of the particles, and might be a potentially important loss pathway of BSOANO(3) during the night-to-day transition.
The radiative impact of out-of-cloud aerosol hygroscopic growth during the summer monsoon in southern West Africa
Water in the atmosphere can exist in the solid, liquid or gas phase. At high humidities, if the aerosol population remains constant, more water vapour will condense onto the particles and cause them to swell, sometimes up to several times their original size. This significant change in size and chemical composition is termed hygroscopic growth and alters a particle's optical properties. Even in unsaturated conditions, this can change the aerosol direct effect, for example by increasing the extinction of incoming sunlight. This can have an impact on a region's energy balance and affect visibility. Here, aerosol and relative humidity measurements collected from aircraft and radiosondes during the Dynamics–Aerosol–Chemistry–Cloud Interactions in West Africa (DACCIWA) campaign were used to estimate the effect of highly humid layers of air on aerosol optical properties during the monsoon season in southern West Africa. The effects of hygroscopic growth in this region are of particular interest due to the regular occurrence of high humidity and the high levels of pollution in the region. The Zdanovskii, Stokes and Robinson (ZSR) mixing rule is used to estimate the hygroscopic growth of particles under different conditions based on chemical composition. These results are used to estimate the aerosol optical depth (AOD) at λ=525 nm for 63 relative humidity profiles. The median AOD in the region from these calculations was 0.36, the same as that measured by sun photometers at the ground site. The spread in the calculated AODs was less than the spread from the sun photometer measurements. In both cases, values above 0.5 were seen predominantly in the mornings and corresponded with high humidities. Observations of modest variations in aerosol load and composition are unable to explain the high and variable AODs observed using sun photometers, which can only be recreated by accounting for the very elevated and variable relative humidities (RHs) in the boundary layer. Most importantly, the highest AODs present in the mornings are not possible without the presence of high RH in excess of 95 %. Humid layers are found to have the most significant impact on AOD when they reach RH greater than 98 %, which can result in a wet AOD more than 1.8 times the dry AOD. Unsaturated humid layers were found to reach these high levels of RH in 37 % of observed cases. It can therefore be concluded that the high AODs present across the region are driven by the high humidities and are then moderated by changes in aerosol abundance. Aerosol concentrations in southern West Africa are projected to increase substantially in the coming years; results presented here show that the presence of highly humid layers in the region is likely to enhance the consequent effect on AOD significantly.