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Volume 16, issue 6 | Copyright
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 16, 4081-4100, 2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 29 Mar 2016

Research article | 29 Mar 2016

Understanding sources of organic aerosol during CalNex-2010 using the CMAQ-VBS

Matthew C. Woody1, Kirk R. Baker1, Patrick L. Hayes2,3,4, Jose L. Jimenez3,4, Bonyoung Koo5, and Havala O. T. Pye1 Matthew C. Woody et al.
  • 1U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, NC, USA
  • 2Université de Montréal, Department of Chemistry, Montreal, QC, Canada
  • 3Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 4Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 5Ramboll Environ International Corporation, Novato, CA, USA

Abstract. Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model simulations utilizing the traditional organic aerosol (OA) treatment (CMAQ-AE6) and a volatility basis set (VBS) treatment for OA (CMAQ-VBS) were evaluated against measurements collected at routine monitoring networks (Chemical Speciation Network (CSN) and Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments (IMPROVE)) and those collected during the 2010 California at the Nexus of Air Quality and Climate Change (CalNex) field campaign to examine important sources of OA in southern California.

Traditionally, CMAQ treats primary organic aerosol (POA) as nonvolatile and uses a two-product framework to represent secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation. CMAQ-VBS instead treats POA as semivolatile and lumps OA using volatility bins spaced an order of magnitude apart. The CMAQ-VBS approach underpredicted organic carbon (OC) at IMPROVE and CSN sites to a greater degree than CMAQ-AE6 due to the semivolatile POA treatment. However, comparisons to aerosol mass spectrometer (AMS) measurements collected at Pasadena, CA, indicated that CMAQ-VBS better represented the diurnal profile and primary/secondary split of OA. CMAQ-VBS SOA underpredicted the average measured AMS oxygenated organic aerosol (OOA, a surrogate for SOA) concentration by a factor of 5.2, representing a considerable improvement to CMAQ-AE6 SOA predictions (factor of 24 lower than AMS).

We use two new methods, one based on species ratios (SOA/ΔCO and SOA/Ox) and another on a simplified SOA parameterization, to apportion the SOA underprediction for CMAQ-VBS to slow photochemical oxidation (estimated as 1.5 ×  lower than observed at Pasadena using −log(NOx:NOy)), low intrinsic SOA formation efficiency (low by 1.6 to 2 ×  for Pasadena), and low emissions or excessive dispersion for the Pasadena site (estimated to be 1.6 to 2.3 ×  too low/excessive). The first and third factors are common to CMAQ-AE6, while the intrinsic SOA formation efficiency for that model is estimated to be too low by about 7 × .

From source-apportioned model results, we found most of the CMAQ-VBS modeled POA at the Pasadena CalNex site was attributable to meat cooking emissions (48 %, consistent with a substantial fraction of cooking OA in the observations). This is compared to 18 % from gasoline vehicle emissions, 13 % from biomass burning (in the form of residential wood combustion), and 8 % from diesel vehicle emissions. All "other" inventoried emission sources (e.g., industrial, point, and area sources) comprised the final 13 %. The CMAQ-VBS semivolatile POA treatment underpredicted AMS hydrocarbon-like OA (HOA) + cooking-influenced OA (CIOA) at Pasadena by a factor of 1.8 compared to a factor of 1.4 overprediction of POA in CMAQ-AE6, but it did capture the AMS diurnal profile of HOA and CIOA well, with the exception of the midday peak.

Overall, the CMAQ-VBS with its semivolatile treatment of POA, SOA from intermediate volatility organic compounds (IVOCs), and aging of SOA improves SOA model performance (though SOA formation efficiency is still 1.6–2 ×  too low). However, continued efforts are needed to better understand assumptions in the parameterization (e.g., SOA aging) and provide additional certainty to how best to apply existing emission inventories in a framework that treats POA as semivolatile, which currently degrades existing model performance at routine monitoring networks. The VBS and other approaches (e.g., AE6) require additional work to appropriately incorporate IVOC emissions and subsequent SOA formation.

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In this work, organic aerosol (OA) predictions from the volatility basis set (VBS) module in the CMAQ photochemical transport model were evaluated against routine monitoring data and measurements collected during the 2010 CalNex field study. We found that the VBS module more accurately reproduced the observed primary/secondary OA split and secondary OA (SOA) mass at the CalNex Pasadena ground site compared to the traditional CMAQ OA module but still underpredicted observed SOA by ~ 5.2 ×.
In this work, organic aerosol (OA) predictions from the volatility basis set (VBS) module in the...