Articles | Volume 7, issue 12
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 7, 4285–4298, 2014
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 7, 4285–4298, 2014

Research article 08 Dec 2014

Research article | 08 Dec 2014

Differences in aerosol absorption Ångström exponents between correction algorithms for a particle soot absorption photometer measured on the South African Highveld

J. Backman1, A. Virkkula3,1,2, V. Vakkari3, J. P. Beukes4, P. G. Van Zyl4, M. Josipovic4, S. Piketh4, P. Tiitta5,4, K. Chiloane6,4, T. Petäjä1, M. Kulmala1, and L. Laakso3,4 J. Backman et al.
  • 1Department of Physics, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  • 2Institute for Climate and Global Change Research, School of Atmospheric Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China
  • 3Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland
  • 4Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, North-West University, Potchefstroom, Republic of South Africa
  • 5Department of Environmental Science, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland
  • 6Sustainability Division, Research, Testing and Development, Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd, Johannesburg, Republic of South Africa

Abstract. Absorption Ångström exponents (AAEs) calculated from filter-based absorption measurements are often used to give information on the origin of the ambient aerosol, for example, to distinguish between urban pollution and biomass burning aerosol. Filter-based absorption measurements are widely used and are common at aerosol monitoring stations globally. Several correction algorithms are used to account for artefacts associated with filter-based absorption techniques. These algorithms are of profound importance when determining the absolute amount of absorption by the aerosol. However, this study shows that there are substantial differences between the AAEs calculated from these corrections. Depending on the used correction, AAEs can change by as much as 46%. The study also highlights that the difference between AAEs calculated using different corrections can lead to conflicting conclusions on the type of aerosol when using the same data set. The AAE ranged between 1.17 for non-corrected data to 1.96 for the correction that gave the greatest values. Furthermore, the study implies that the AAEs reported for a site depend on at which filter transmittance the filter is changed. In this work, the AAEs were calculated from data measured with a three-wavelength particle soot absorption photometer (PSAP) at Elandsfontein on the South African Highveld for 23 months. The sample air of the PSAP was diluted to prolong filter change intervals, by a factor of 15. The correlation coefficient between the dilution-corrected PSAP and a non-diluted Multi-Angle Absorption Photometer (MAAP) was 0.9. Thus, the study also shows that the applicability of the PSAP can be extended to remote sites that are not often visited or suffer from high levels of pollution.