Europe is a densely populated region that is a significant global source of black carbon (BC) aerosol, but there is a lack of information regarding the physical properties and spatial/vertical distribution of rBC in the region. We present the first aircraft observations of sub-micron refractory BC (rBC) aerosol concentrations and physical properties measured by a single particle soot photometer (SP2) in the lower troposphere over Europe. The observations spanned a region roughly bounded by 50° to 60° N and from 15° W to 30° E. The measurements, made between April and September 2008, showed that average rBC mass concentrations ranged from about 300 ng m−3 near urban areas to approximately 50 ng m−3 in remote continental regions, lower than previous surface-based measurements. rBC represented between 0.5 and 3% of the sub-micron aerosol mass. Black carbon mass size distributions were log-normally distributed and peaked at approximately 180 nm, but shifted to smaller diameters (~160 nm) near source regions. rBC was correlated with carbon monoxide (CO) but had different ratios to CO depending on location and air mass. Light absorption coefficients were measured by particle soot absorption photometers on two separate aircraft and showed similar geographic patterns to rBC mass measured by the SP2. We summarize the rBC and light absorption measurements as a function of longitude and air mass age and also provide profiles of rBC mass concentrations and size distribution statistics. Our results will help evaluate model-predicted regional rBC concentrations and properties and determine regional and global climate impacts from rBC due to atmospheric heating and surface dimming.
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