Winter and wildfire season optical characterization of black and brown carbon in the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez airshed
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Pamela Lara; Rosa M. Fitzgerald; Nakul N. Karle; Jose Talamantes; Miranda Miranda; Darrel Baumgardner; William R. Stockwell
Publication Year: 2022

Cataloging Information

  • black carbon
  • brown carbon
  • HRRR - High Resolution Rapid Refresh
  • HYSPLIT - Hybrid Single-Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory
  • PAX - photoacoustic extinctiometer
  • planetary boundary layer
  • troposphere
  • wildfires
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: August 24, 2022
FRAMES Record Number: 66466


Black (EBC) and Brown (BrC) Carbon are ubiquitous constituents of atmospheric particulate matter that affect people’s health, disrupt ecosystems, and modulate local and global climate. Tracking the local deposition and sources of these aerosol particles is essential to better understanding their multidimensional environmental impact. The main goal of the current study is to measure the absorption coefficient (Babs) of particles within the Planetary Boundary Layer (PBL) of the El Paso (US)–Ciudad Juárez (Mexico) airshed and assess the contribution of black and brown carbon particles to the optical absorption. Measurements were taken during a summer, wildfire, and winter season to evaluate the optical properties of BC and non-volatile BrC. The winter season presented a variation from the background Babs in the late evening hours (3:00 PM to midnight) due to an increase in biomass burning driven by lower temperatures. The wildfire season presents the greatest variation in the Babs from the background absorption due to EBC- and BrC-rich smoke plumes arriving at this region from the US West seasonal wildfires. It was found that the international bridges’ vehicular traffic, waiting time to cross back and forth between both cities, added to other local anthropogenic activities, such as brick kiln emissions in Ciudad Juarez, have created a background of air pollution in this region. These pollutants include carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen and nitric oxides, coarse and fine particulate matter dominated by BC and BrC. The absorption coefficients due to EBC and BrC of this background constitute what we have called a baseline EBC and BrC. Aided by two photoacoustic Extinctiometers (PAX), operating at 405 nm and 870 nm wavelengths, connected to a 340 °C thermal denuder to remove volatile organics, the optical properties were documented and evaluated to identify the impact of long-range transported emissions from western wildfires. The Single Scattering Albedo and the Absorption Ångstrom exponent were calculated for the winter and summer season. The Angstrom exponent showed a decrease during the wildfire events due to the aging process. The High-Resolution Rapid Refresh Smoke model, HRRR, and the Hybrid Single-Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory model, HYSPLIT, were used to estimate the sources of the particles. In addition, a Vaisala Ceilometer was employed to study the vertical profile of particulate matter within the planetary boundary layer.

Online Link(s):
Lara, Pamela; Fitzgerald, Rosa M.; Karle, Nakul N.; Talamantes, Jose; Miranda, Miranda; Baumgardner, Darrel; Stockwell, William R. 2022. Winter and wildfire season optical characterization of black and brown carbon in the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez airshed. Atmosphere 13(8):1201.