1Graduate Institute of Technology, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Little Rock, AR, USA
2Chemistry Department, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Little Rock, AR, USA
3Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
4Swarthmore College, 500 College Ave., Swarthmore, PA, USA
5University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, Mayaguez, PR, USA
6Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, CA, USA
7Chemistry Department, University of Central Arkansas, Conway, AR, USA
Abstract. In order to determine the wavelength dependence of atmospheric aerosol absorption in the Mexico City area, the absorption Ångstrom exponents (AAEs) were calculated from aerosol absorption measurements at seven wavelengths obtained with a seven-channel aethalometer during two field campaigns, the Mexico City Metropolitan Area study in April 2003 (MCMA 2003) and the Megacity Initiative: Local and Global Research Observations in March 2006 (MILAGRO). The AAEs varied from 0.76 to 1.56 in 2003 and from 0.54 to 1.52 in 2006. The AAE values determined in the afternoon were consistently higher than the corresponding morning values, suggesting the photochemical formation of absorbing secondary organic aerosols (SOA) in the afternoon.
The AAE values were compared to stable and radiocarbon isotopic measurements of aerosol samples collected at the same time to determine the sources of the aerosol carbon. The fraction of modern carbon (fM) in the aerosol samples, as determined from 14C analysis, showed that 70% of the carbonaceous aerosols in Mexico City were from modern sources, indicating a significant impact from biomass burning during both field campaigns. The 13C/12C ratios of the aerosol samples illustrate the significant impact of Yucatan forest fires (C-3 plants) in 2003 and local grass fires (C-4 plants) at site T1 in 2006. A direct comparison of the fM values, stable carbon isotope ratios, and calculated aerosol AAEs suggested that the wavelength dependence of the aerosol absorption was controlled by the biogenically derived aerosol components.