Modeling organic aerosols in a megacity: Comparison of simple and complex representations of the volatility basis set approach

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The Weather Research and Forecasting model coupled with chemistry (WRF-Chem) is modified to include a volatility basis set (VBS) treatment of secondary organic aerosol formation. The VBS approach, coupled with SAPRC-99 gas-phase chemistry mechanism, is used to model gas-particle partitioning and multiple generations of gas-phase oxidation of organic vapors. In addition to the detailed 9-species VBS, a simplified mechanism using 2 volatility species (2-species VBS) is developed and tested for similarity to the 9-species VBS in terms of both mass and oxygen-to-carbon ratios of organic aerosols in the atmosphere. WRF-Chem results are evaluated against field measurements of organic aerosols collected during the MILAGRO 2006 campaign in the vicinity of Mexico City. The simplified 2-species mechanism reduces the computational cost by a factor of 2 as compared to 9-species VBS. Both ground site and aircraft measurements suggest that the 9-species and 2-species VBS predictions of total organic aerosol mass as well as individual organic aerosol components including primary, secondary, and biomass burning are comparable in magnitude. In addition, oxygen-to-carbon ratio predictions from both approaches agree within 25 %, providing evidence that the 2-species VBS is well suited to represent the complex evolution of organic aerosols. Model sensitivity to amount of anthropogenic semi-volatile and intermediate volatility (S/IVOC) precursor emissions is also examined by doubling the default emissions. Both the emission cases significantly under-predict primary organic aerosols in the city center and along aircraft flight transects. Secondary organic aerosols are predicted reasonably well along flight tracks surrounding the city, but are consistently over-predicted downwind of the city. Also, oxygen-to-carbon ratio predictions are significantly improved compared to prior studies by adding 15 % oxygen mass per generation of oxidation; however, all modeling cases still under-predict these ratios downwind as compared to measurements, suggesting a need to further improve chemistry parameterizations of secondary organic aerosol formation. © 2011 Author(s).




Shrivastava, M., Fast, J., Easter, R., Gustafson, W. I., Zaveri, R. A., Jimenez, J. L., … Hodzic, A. (2011). Modeling organic aerosols in a megacity: Comparison of simple and complex representations of the volatility basis set approach. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 11(13), 6639–6662.

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