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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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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.

Research article 03 Apr 2019

Research article | 03 Apr 2019

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

Fossil fuel combustion and biomass burning sources of global black carbon

Ling Qi1 and Shuxiao Wang1,2 Ling Qi and Shuxiao Wang
  • 1State Key Joint Laboratory of Environment Simulation and Pollution Control, School of Environment, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
  • 2State Environmental Protection Key Laboratory of Sources and Control of Air Pollution Complex, Beijing 100084, China

Abstract. We identify sources (fossil fuel versus biomass burning) of black carbon (BC) in the atmosphere and in deposition using a global 3D chemical transport model GEOS-Chem. We validate the simulated sources against carbon isotope measurements of BC around the globe and find that the model reproduces biomass burning contribution (fbb, %) in various regions within a factor of 2. GEOS-Chem shows that contribution from biomass burning in the Northern Hemisphere (fbb: 34 %) is much less than that in the Southern Hemisphere (52 %). Specifically, we find comparable contribution from biomass burning and fossil fuel in South Asia, S. America, S. Pacific, Australia and the Antarctic. fbb is the largest in Africa (64 %), followed by that in East Asia (40 %), Siberia (35 %), the Arctic (33 %), Canada (31 %), the US (25 %), and Europe (19 %). fbb is higher in summer (59–78 %) than in winter (28–32 %) in the Arctic, while it is higher in winter (42–58 %) and lower in summer (16–42 %) over the Himalayan–Tibetan plateau. The seasonal variations of fbb are relatively flat in North America, Europe, and Asia. We find that double biofuel emissions for domestic heating during cold seasons northern than 45° N increases fbb values in the Arctic and Europe in winter by ~ 30 %, resulting in a ~ 20 % reduction of discrepancies of fbb in the two regions. The remaining large negative discrepancies (Europe: 41 %; Arctic: 46 %) suggest that the biofuel emissions are probably still underestimated at high latitudes. Increasing fraction of thickly coated hydrophilic BC from 20 % to 70 % in fresh biomass burning plumes increases the fraction of hydrophilic BC in biomass burning plumes by 0–20 % (vary with seasons and regions), and thereby reduces atmospheric fbb by up to 11 %. Faster aging (4 hour e-folding time versus 1.15 days of e-folding time) of BC in biomass burning plumes reduces atmospheric fbb by 7 % (1–14 %), with the largest reduction in remote regions, such as the Arctic, the Antarctic and S. Pacific. Using size resolved scavenging accelerates scavenging of BC particles in both fossil fuel and biomass burning plumes, with a larger increase of the former. Thus, atmospheric fbb increases in most regions by 1–14 %. Overall, atmospheric fbb is determined by fbb in emissions mainly and by atmospheric processes, such as aging and scavenging, to a less extent.

Ling Qi and Shuxiao Wang
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Ling Qi and Shuxiao Wang
Ling Qi and Shuxiao Wang
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Black Carbon (BC) exerts two-thirds the climate impact of carbon dioxide, pushing methane into third place as a human contributor to global warming. This study shows that the contributions from biomass burning (produce marginal lensing effect) have a strong spatial variation from 20% in Europe to 60% in Africa. Thus, the inclusion of strong lensing-related absorption enhancement to all BC particles in previous estimates may lead to an overestimate of their positive radiative forcing.
Black Carbon (BC) exerts two-thirds the climate impact of carbon dioxide, pushing methane into...