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Black carbon emissions from biomass and fossil fuels in rural India

by I. H. Rehman, T. Ahmed, P. S. Praveen, A. Kar, V. Ramanathan
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics ()

Abstract

Black carbon (BC) emission from biofuel cooking in South Asia and its radiative forcing is a significant source of uncertainty for health and climate impact studies. Quantification of BC emissions in the published literature is either based on laboratory or remote field observations far away from the source. For the first time under Project Surya, we use field measurements taken simultaneously inside rural households, ambient air and vehicular emissions from highways in a rural area in the Indo-Gangetic-Plains region of India to establish the role of both solid biomass based cooking in traditional stoves and diesel vehicles in contributing to high BC and organic carbon (OC), and solar absorption. The major finding of this study is that BC concentrations during cooking hours, both indoors and outdoors, have anomalously large twice-daily peak concentrations reaching 60 μg m3 (median 15-min average value) for indoor and 30 μg m3 (median 15-min average value) for outdoor during the early morning (05:00 to 08:00) and early evening (17:00 to 19:00) hours coinciding with the morning and evening cooking hours. The BC during the non-cooking hours were also large, in the range of 2 to 30 μg m3. The peak indoor BC concentrations reached as high as 1000 μg m3. The large diurnal peaks seen in this study lead to the conclusion that satellite based aerosol studies that rely on once- daily daytime measurements may severely underestimate the BC loading of the atmosphere. The concentration of OC was a factor of 5 larger than BC and furthermore optical data show that absorbing brown carbon was a major component of the OC. The imprint of the cooking hour peaks were seen in the outdoor BC both in the village as well as in the highway. The results have significant implications for climate and epidemiological studies.

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