Variation of the radiative properties during black carbon aging: theoretical and experimental intercomparison Academic Article uri icon


  • Abstract. A theoretical black carbon (BC) aging model is developed to account for three typical evolution stages, namely, freshly emitted aggregates, BC coated by soluble material, and BC particles undergoing further hygroscopic growth. The geometric-optics surface-wave (GOS) approach is employed to compute the BC single-scattering properties at each aging stage, which are subsequently compared with laboratory measurements. Theoretical calculations are consistent with measurements in extinction and absorption cross sections for fresh BC aggregates with different BC sizes (i.e., mobility diameters of 155, 245, and 320 nm), with differences of 25 %. The measured optical cross sections for BC coated by sulfuric acid and for that undergoing further hygroscopic growth are generally captured (differences < 30 %) by theoretical calculations using a concentric core-shell structure, with an overestimate in extinction and absorption of the smallest BC size and an underestimate in scattering of the largest BC size. We find that the absorption and scattering cross sections of fresh BC aggregates vary by 2040 and 5065 %, respectively, due to the use of upper (1.950.79i) and lower (1.750.63i) bounds of BC refractive index, while the variations are < 20 % in absorption and < 50 % in scattering in the case of coated BC particles. Sensitivity analyses of the BC morphology show that the optical properties of fresh BC aggregates are more sensitive to fractal dimension than primary spherule size. The absorption and scattering cross sections of coated BC particles vary by more than a factor of 2 due to different coating structures. We find an increase of 20250 % in absorption and a factor of 315 in scattering during aging, significantly depending on coating morphology and aging stages. This study suggests that an accurate estimate of BC radiative effects requires the incorporation of a dynamic BC aging process that accounts for realistic coating structures in climate models.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • He, C., Liou, K., Takano, Y., Zhang, R., Zamora, M. L., Yang, P., Li, Q., & Leung, L. R.

citation count

  • 105

complete list of authors

  • He, C||Liou, K-N||Takano, Y||Zhang, R||Zamora, M Levy||Yang, P||Li, Q||Leung, LR

publication date

  • October 2015