1Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh PA, USA
2Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore MD, USA
3Droplet Measurement Technologies, Boulder, CO, USA
4Centre for Atmospheric Science, University of Manchester, UK
Abstract. Experiments were conducted to investigate light absorption of organic aerosol (OA) in fresh and photo-chemically aged biomass-burning emissions. The experiments considered residential hardwood fuel (oak) and fuels commonly consumed in wild-land and prescribed fires in the United States (pocosin pine and gallberry). Photo-chemical aging was performed in an environmental chamber. We constrained the light-absorption properties of the OA using conservative limiting assumptions, and found that both primary organic aerosol (POA) in the fresh emissions and secondary organic aerosol (SOA) produced by photo-chemical aging absorb light to a significant extent, and are categorized as brown carbon. This work presents the first direct evidence that SOA produced in aged biomass-burning emissions is absorptive. For the investigated fuels, SOA is less absorptive than POA in the long visible, but exhibits steeper wavelength-dependence (larger Absorption Ångström Exponent) and is more absorptive in the short visible and near-UV. Light absorption by SOA in biomass-burning emissions might be an important contributor to the global radiative forcing budget.