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Drought Impacts on Secondary Organic Aerosol: A Case Study in the Southeast United States

Zhao, Zijian, Wang, Yuxuan, Qin, Momei, Hu, Yongtao, Xie, Yuanyu, Russell, Armistead G.
Environmental science & technology 2018 v.53 no.1 pp. 242-250
aerosols, air quality, case studies, drought, emissions, gases, isoprene, models, particulates, sulfates, volatile organic compounds, wet deposition, Southeastern United States
Secondary organic aerosol (SOA) is a significant component of fine particulate matter, and it has increased during past drought periods in the U.S. Here, we use the Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model to characterize the complex effects of drought on SOA through a case study comparing a drought period (June 2011) and a wet period (June 2013) over the southeast U.S. The model simulates a 68% (1.7 μg/m³) higher SOA concentration at the surface during drought and attributes 98% of this increase to biogenic SOA. Through model sensitivity simulations, the SOA increase associated with drought is attributed to 54% from accelerated gas-phase reactions oxidizing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to SOA, 45% from higher emissions of biogenic VOCs, 18% from enhanced acid-catalyzed production of isoprene SOA in aerosol water due to changing sulfate, 3% from enhanced in-cloud aqueous phase chemistry. Because the higher SOA levels overwhelm the reduced precipitation, there is an increase in wet deposition flux in the drought month which offsets 20% of the total SOA increase. If anthropogenic emissions are held constant, anthropogenic SOA is 51% higher during drought, highlighting the importance of meteorological impacts on chemistry.