1School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK
2Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and CIRES, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
3Aerodyne Research, Billerica, MA, USA
4Department of Environmental Toxicology, University of California, Davis, CA, USA
5Centre for Atmospheric Science, School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
Abstract. The budget of atmospheric secondary organic aerosol (SOA) is very uncertain, with recent estimates suggesting a global source of between 12 and 1820 Tg (SOA) a−1. We used a dataset of aerosol mass spectrometer (AMS) observations and a global chemical transport model including aerosol microphysics to produce top-down constraints on the SOA budget. We treated SOA formation from biogenic (monoterpenes and isoprene), lumped anthropogenic and lumped biomass burning volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and varied the SOA yield from each precursor source to produce the best overall match between model and observations. Organic aerosol observations from the IMPROVE network were used as an independent check of our optimised sources. The optimised model has a global SOA source of 140 ± 90 Tg (SOA) a−1 comprised of 13 ± 8 Tg (SOA) a−1 from biogenic, 100 ± 60 Tg (SOA) a−1 from anthropogenically controlled SOA, 23 ± 15 Tg (SOA) a−1 from conversion of primary organic aerosol (mostly from biomass burning) to SOA and an additional 3 ± 3 Tg (SOA) a−1 from biomass burning VOCs. Compared with previous estimates, our optimized model has a substantially larger SOA source in the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes. We used a dataset of 14C observations from rural locations to estimate that 10 Tg (SOA) a−1 (10%) of our anthropogenically controlled SOA is of urban/industrial origin, with 90 Tg (SOA) a−1 (90%) most likely due to an anthropogenic pollution enhancement of SOA from biogenic VOCs, almost an order-of-magnitude beyond what can be explained by current understanding. The urban/industrial SOA source is consistent with the 13 Tg a−1 estimated by de Gouw and Jimenez (2009), which was much larger than estimates from previous studies. The anthropogenically controlled SOA source results in a global mean aerosol direct effect of −0.26 ± 0.15 Wm−2 and global mean indirect (cloud albedo) effect of −0.6+0.24−0.14 Wm−2. The biogenic and biomass SOA sources are not well constrained due to the limited number of OA observations in regions and periods strongly impacted by these sources. To further improve the constraints by this method, additional observations are needed in the tropics and the Southern Hemisphere.