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Discussion papers
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 02 Jan 2020

Submitted as: research article | 02 Jan 2020

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

Long-term Brown Carbon and Smoke Tracer Observations in Bogotá, Colombia: Association to Medium-Range Transport of Biomass Burning Plumes

Juan Manuel Rincón-Riveros1, Maria Alejandra Rincón-Caro1, Amy P. Sullivan2, Juan Felipe Mendez-Espinosa1, Luis Carlos Belalcazar3, Miguel Quirama-Aguilar1, and Ricardo Morales Betancourt1 Juan Manuel Rincón-Riveros et al.
  • 1Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia
  • 2Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA
  • 3Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia

Abstract. Light-absorbing aerosols emitted during open biomass burning (BB) events such as wildfires and agricultural burns have a strong impact on the Earth’s radiation budget through both direct and indirect effects. Additionally, BB aerosols and gas-phase emissions can substantially reduce air quality at local, regional, and global scales, negatively affecting human health. South America is one of largest contributors to BB emissions globally. After Amazonia, the BB emissions from the wildfires and agricultural burns in the grassland plains of Northern South America (NSA) are the most significant in the region. However, few studies have analyzed the potential impact of NSA BB emissions on regional air quality. Recent evidence suggests that seasonal variations in air quality in several major cities in NSA could be associated with open biomass burning emissions, but it is still uncertain to what those sources impact air quality in the region. In this work, we report on 3 years of continuous equivalent Black Carbon (eBC) and Brown Carbon (BrC) observations at a hill-top site located upwind of the city of Bogotá and we demonstrate its association with MODIS detected fires in a 3000 km × 2000 km domain. Off-line PM2.5 filter samples collected during three field campaigns were analyzed to quantify water-soluble organic carbon (WSOC), organic and elemental carbon (OC/EC), and biomass burning tracers such as levoglucosan, galactosan, and potassium. MODIS Active Fire Data and HYSPLIT back-trajectories were used to identify potential biomass burning plumes transported to the city. We analyzed the relationship between BrC, WSOC, water-soluble potassium, and levoglucosan to identify signals of regional transport of BB aerosols. Our results confirm that regional biomass burning transport from wildfires occurs annually during the months of January and April. The seasonality of eBC followed closely that of PM2.5 at the city air quality stations, however, the observed seasonality of BrC is distinctly different to that of eBC and strongly associated to regional fire counts. The strong correlation between BrC and regional fire counts was observed both at daily, weekly, and monthly time-scales. WSOC at the measurement site was observed to increase linearly with levoglucosan during high BB periods, and to remain constant at ∼ 2.5 µgC m−3 during the low BB activity seasons. Our findings show, for the first time in this region, that aged BB plumes can regularly reach densely populated areas in the Central Andes of Northern South America. A source footprint analysis involving BrC observations, back-trajectories, and remotely sensed fire activity shows that the eastern savannas in NSA are the main BB source region for the domain analyzed.

Juan Manuel Rincón-Riveros et al.
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Status: open (until 27 Feb 2020)
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Juan Manuel Rincón-Riveros et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Air pollution affects health for millions of people worldwide. This is particularly worrisome for citizens of emerging economies where air quality is often heavily deteriorated. We show how, every year, agricultural burns and forest fires in the grasslands of Northern South America increase the concentration of harmful particles in the environment further worsening air quality for nearly 60 million in this region, even when the fires typically occur hundreds of kilometers away from urban areas.
Air pollution affects health for millions of people worldwide. This is particularly worrisome...