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Soot Aerosol In The Atmosphere: Pole-to-Pole Distribution And Contributions by AircraftInterest in the distribution of black carbon (soot) aerosol (BCA) in the atmosphere is warranted for the following reasons: (1) BCA has the highest absorption cross section of any compound known, thus it can absorb solar radiation to cause atmospheric warming; (2) BCA is a strong adsorber of gases, thus it can catalyze heterogeneous chemical reactions to modify the chemical composition of the atmosphere; (3) If aircraft emission is the major source of atmospheric BCA, it can serve as an atmospheric tracer of aircraft exhaust. We collect BCA particles greater than or equal to 0.02 micrometer diameter by wires mounted on both the DC-8 and ER-2 aircraft. After return to the laboratory, the wires are examined with a field emission scanning electron microscope to identify BCA particles by their characteristic morphology. Typically, BCA exists in the atmosphere as small particles of complex morphology. The particle sizes at the source are measured in tens of Angstrom units; after a short residence time in the atmosphere, individual particles coalesce to loosely packed agglomerates of typical dimensions 0.01 to 0.1 micrometer. We approximate the size of each BCA aggregate by that of a sphere of equivalent volume. This is done by computing the volume of a sphere whose diameter is the mean between averaged minimum and maximum dimensions of the BCA particle. While this procedure probably underestimates the actual surface area, it permits us to compare BCA size distributions among themselves and with other types of aerosols. When statistically justified, we fit lognormal distributions to the data points to determine number concentrations, geometric mean radii, standard deviations, BCA surface areas and volumes. Results to date permit the following conclusions: (1) BCA concentration in the northern stratosphere averages 0.6 ng per cubic meters. This amount is one part in 10(exp 4) after a volcanic eruption (e.g., Pinatubo) increasing to about one percent during volcanic quiescence. In the northern troposphere, BCA concentration averages 3.2 ng per cubic meters, or 0.3 percent of the background aerosol. (2) Applying an BCA emission index EI(BCA)=5 x 10(exp -5), measured in the exhaust wake of a Concorde supersonic jet aircraft, to realistic estimates of fuel burnt by the current and projected fleets permits us to conclude that: (i) Most BCA in the northern stratosphere results from aircraft emissions; (ii) Most BCA in the northern troposphere results from other sources than aircraft; (iii) A projected supersonic fleet will increase the northern stratospheric BCA concentration by one order of magnitude, unless the emission index is substantially reduced. (3) A strong gradient between the northern and southern hemispheres indicates that mixing across the equator is greatly inhibited in relation to atmospheric residence times of BCA. (4) The single scatter albedo of BCA/"background" aerosol mixtures suggests a cooling effect for most of the globe; an exemption is the Arctic because of the high surface albedo of the snow/ice covered earth's surface.
Document ID
Document Type
Preprint (Draft being sent to journal)
Pueschel, R. F.
(NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA United States)
Verma, S.
(TMA/Norcal Richmond, CA United States)
Howard, S. D.
(Synernet Corp. Fremont, CA United States)
Ferry, G. V.
(NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA United States)
Goodman, J.
(San Jose State Univ. CA United States)
Allen, D. A.
(NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA United States)
Strawa, Anthony W.
Date Acquired
August 20, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1995
Subject Category
Environment Pollution
Funding Number(s)
PROJECT: RTOP 464-14-16
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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