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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 19 Nov 2019

Submitted as: research article | 19 Nov 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Seasonal source variability of carbonaceous aerosols at the Rwanda climate Observatory

August Andersson1, Elena N. Kirillova1,2, Stefano Decesari2, Langley DeWitt3, Jimmy Gasore3,4,5, Katherine E. Potter3, Ronald G. Prinn3, Maheswar Rupakheti6, Jean de Dieu Ndikubwimana4, Julius Nkusi4, and Bonfils Safari5 August Andersson et al.
  • 1Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry (ACES) and the Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University, SE-10691 Stockholm, Sweden
  • 2Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate-ISAC, National Research Councilof Italy, Bologna, Italy
  • 3Center for Global Change Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA
  • 4Climate Secretariat, Ministry of Education, Kigali, Rwanda
  • 5Physics Department, School of Physics, College of Science and Technology, University of Rwanda, Kigali, Rwanda
  • 6Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), Potsdam, Germany

Abstract. Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is a global hotspot for aerosol emissions, affecting regional environmental sustainability. In this paper we use atmospheric observations to address one of the major uncertainties of the, e.g., climate and health impact of SSA aerosols: the quantitative contributions from different emissions sources. Ambient fine fraction aerosol (PM2.5) were collected on filters at the high altitude (2590 m a.s.l.) Rwanda Climate Observatory (RCO), an SSA background site, during dry and wet seasons in 2014 and 2015. The concentrations of both carbonaceous aerosols and inorganic ions show a strong seasonal cycle, with highly elevated concentrations during the dry season. Source marker ratios, including carbon isotopes, show that the wet and dry seasons have distinct aerosol compositions. The dry season is characterized by elevated amounts of biomass burning products, approaching ~ 95 % for carbonaceous aerosols. An isotopic mass-balance estimate shows that the amount of the carbonaceous aerosols stemming from savanna fires may increase from ~ 0.6 μg/m3 in the wet season up to ~ 10 μg/m3 during the dry season. Taken together, we here quantitatively show that savanna fire is the key modulator of the seasonal aerosol composition variability at the RCO, an SSA background site.

August Andersson et al.
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August Andersson et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Large-scale biomass burning events seasonally cover Sub-Saharan Africa with air particles. In this study, we find that the concentrations of these particles at a remote mountain site in Rwanda may increase by a factor of 10 during such dry biomass burning periods, with strong implications for the regional climate and human health. The present results provide quantitative constraints for contributing to reducing the currently large uncertainties regarding the environmental impact of these fires.
Large-scale biomass burning events seasonally cover Sub-Saharan Africa with air particles. In...