Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 10, 785-819, 2010
© Author(s) 2010. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
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This discussion paper has been under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP). Please refer to the corresponding final paper in ACP.
Impact of brown and clear carbon on light absorption enhancement, single scatter albedo and absorption wavelength dependence of black carbon
D. A. Lack1,2 and C. D. Cappa3
1NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, Chemical Sciences Division, 325 Broadway, Boulder, 80304, CO, USA
2Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, 216 UCB, Boulder, 80309, CO, USA
3Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Davis, California, USA

Abstract. The presence of clear coatings on atmospheric black carbon (BC) particles is known to enhance the magnitude of light absorption by the BC cores. Based on calculations using core/shell Mie theory, we demonstrate the enhancement of light absorption (EAbs) by atmospheric black carbon (BC) when coated in mildly absorbing material (CBrown) is reduced, relative to the enhancement by non-absorbing coatings (CClear). This reduction, sensitive to CBrown shell thickness and imaginary refractive index (RI), can be up to 50% for 400 nm radiation and 25% averaged across the visible radiation spectrum for reasonable core/shell diameters. The enhanced direct radiative forcing possible due to the enhancement effect of CClear is therefore reduced if the coating is absorbing. Additionally, the need to explicitly treat BC as an internal, as opposed to external, mixture with CBrown is shown to be important to the calculated single scatter albedo only whensub models treat BC as large spherical cores (>50 nm). For smaller BC cores (or fractal agglomerates) consideration of the BC and CBrown as an external mixture leads to relatively small errors in the particle single scatter albedo of <0.03. It is often assumed that observation of an absorption Angstrom exponent (AAE) >1 indicates non-BC absorption. Here, it is shown that BC cores coated in CClearcan reasonably have an AAE of up to 1.6, a result that complicates the attribution of observed light absorption to CBrown within ambient particles. However, an AAE<1.6 does not exclude the possibility of CBrown, rather CBrown cannot be confidently assigned unless AAE>1.6. Comparison of these results to some ambient AAE data shows that large-scale attribution of CBrown is a challenging task using current in-situ measurement methods. We suggest that coincident measurements of particle core and shell sizes along with the AAE may be necessary to distinguish absorbing and non-absorbing OC.

Citation: Lack, D. A. and Cappa, C. D.: Impact of brown and clear carbon on light absorption enhancement, single scatter albedo and absorption wavelength dependence of black carbon, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 10, 785-819, doi:10.5194/acpd-10-785-2010, 2010.
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