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Published June 2017 | Published
Journal Article Open

Recent advances in understanding secondary organic aerosol: Implications for global climate forcing


Anthropogenic emissions and land use changes have modified atmospheric aerosol concentrations and size distributions over time. Understanding preindustrial conditions and changes in organic aerosol due to anthropogenic activities is important because these features (1) influence estimates of aerosol radiative forcing and (2) can confound estimates of the historical response of climate to increases in greenhouse gases. Secondary organic aerosol (SOA), formed in the atmosphere by oxidation of organic gases, represents a major fraction of global submicron-sized atmospheric organic aerosol. Over the past decade, significant advances in understanding SOA properties and formation mechanisms have occurred through measurements, yet current climate models typically do not comprehensively include all important processes. This review summarizes some of the important developments during the past decade in understanding SOA formation. We highlight the importance of some processes that influence the growth of SOA particles to sizes relevant for clouds and radiative forcing, including formation of extremely low volatility organics in the gas phase, acid-catalyzed multiphase chemistry of isoprene epoxydiols, particle-phase oligomerization, and physical properties such as volatility and viscosity. Several SOA processes highlighted in this review are complex and interdependent and have nonlinear effects on the properties, formation, and evolution of SOA. Current global models neglect this complexity and nonlinearity and thus are less likely to accurately predict the climate forcing of SOA and project future climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases. Efforts are also needed to rank the most influential processes and nonlinear process-related interactions, so that these processes can be accurately represented in atmospheric chemistry-climate models.

Additional Information

© 2017 American Geophysical Union. Received 4 OCT 2016; Accepted 12 MAY 2017; Accepted article online 18 MAY 2017; Published online 15 JUN 2017. This work was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research's Atmospheric System Research (ASR) program. The manuscript is based on an ASR-supported workshop "New Strategies for Addressing Anthropogenic-Biogenic Interactions of Organic Aerosol in Climate Models," which was held at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) on 8 and 9 June 2015. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is operated for DOE by Battelle Memorial Institute under contract DE-AC05-76RL01830. C.D.C was supported by National Science Foundation (ATM-1151062). P.J.R. was supported by the U.S. DOE, Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research program as part of the Earth System Modeling Program. The authors thank Jerome Fast, Charlette Geffen, Ashley Williamson, and Shaima Nasiri for their support and encouragement. Sources of figures adapted from previous publications are duly cited and conform to copyright requirements from their respective publications. No other data was utilized in this study.

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Published - Shrivastava_et_al-2017-Reviews_of_Geophysics.pdf


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