A study of secondary organic aerosol formation in the anthropogenic-influenced southeastern United States

Rodney J. Weber, Amy P. Sullivan, Richard E. Peltier, Armistead Russell, Bo Yan, Mei Zheng, Joost de Grouw, Carsten Warneke, Charles Brock, John S. Holloway, Elliot L. Atlas, Eric Edgerton

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435 Scopus citations


The formation of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) in an anthropogenic-influenced region in the southeastern United States is investigated by a comparison with urban plumes in the northeast. The analysis is based on measurements of fine-particle organic compounds soluble in water (WSOC) as a measure of secondary organic aerosol. Aircraft measurements over a large area of northern Georgia, including the Atlanta metropolitan region, and in plumes from New York City and surrounding urban regions in the northeast show that fine-particle WSOC are spatially correlated with vehicle emission tracers (e.g., CO), yet the measurements indicate that vehicles do not directly emit significant particulate WSOC. In. addition to being correlated, WSOC concentrations were in similar proportions to anthropogenic tracers in both regions, despite biogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that were on average 10-100 times higher over northern Georgia. In contrast, radiocarbon analysis on WSOC extracted from integrated filters deployed in Atlanta suggests that roughly 70-80% of the carbon in summertime WSOC is modern. If both findings are valid, the combined results indicate that in northern Georgia, fine-particle WSOC was secondary and formed through a process that involves mainly modern biogenic VOCs but which is strongly linked to an anthropogenic component that may largely control the mass of SOA formed. Independent of the radiocarbon results, a strong association between SOA and anthropogenic sources has implications for control strategies in urban regions with large biogenic VOC emissions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberD13302
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 16 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Oceanography
  • Forestry
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Palaeontology


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