Isolating nitrated and aromatic aerosols and nitrated aromatic gases as sources of ultraviolet light absorption


  • Mark Z. Jacobson


Measurements in 1973 and 1987 showed that downward ultraviolet (UV) irradiances within the boundary layer in Los Angeles were up to 50% less than those above the boundary layer. Downward total solar irradiances were reduced by less than 14% in both studies. It is estimated that standard gas and particulate absorbers and scatterers accounted for only about 52–62% of the observed UV reductions at Claremont and Riverside. It is hypothesized that absorption by nitrated and aromatic aerosol components and nitrated aromatic gases caused at least 25–30% of the reductions (with aerosols accounting for about 4/5 of this percent). The remaining reductions are still unaccounted for. Absorbing aerosol components include nitrated aromatics, benzaldehydes, benzoic acids, aromatic polycarboxylic acids, phenols, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and nitrated inorganics. Many of these species have been observed to date in atmospheric particles, and absorption coefficient data indicate many are strong absorbers at long UV wavelengths. Since aerosols containing nitrated or aromatic aerosols have been observed widely in many areas aside from Los Angeles the finding may account for a portion of UV extinction in those regions as well. In Los Angeles, the finding may be important for predicting smog evolution, since UV reductions associated with high aerosol loadings were estimated to cause a 5–8% decrease in ozone mixing ratios in August 1987. Further laboratory and field studies are needed to quantify better the extent of UV absorption due to nitrated and aromatic aerosols and nitrated aromatic gases.