Chemical characterization of pollution layers over the tropical Indian Ocean: Signatures of emissions from biomass and fossil fuel burning


  • T. Reiner,

  • D. Sprung,

  • C. Jost,

  • R. Gabriel,

  • O. L. Mayol-Bracero,

  • M. O. Andreae,

  • T. L. Campos,

  • R. E. Shelter


We have performed airborne measurements of atmospheric trace gases and aerosol composition on the National Center for Atmospheric Research C-130 research aircraft over the tropical Indian Ocean during the Indian Ocean Experiment (INDOEX) intensive field phase in February and March 1999. Gases measured included acetone, acetonitrile, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide. The aerosol composition was analyzed for water-soluble ions, and black and organic carbon. South of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), we sampled pristine air originating from the remote southern Indian Ocean. North of the ITCZ, signatures of heavy pollution were evident over large areas of the Indian Ocean. Heavy pollution was present in the marine boundary layer as well as in the free troposphere at altitudes up to almost 4000 m. Outflow from the Indian subcontinent as well as from other source regions (Arabian Sea, Southeast Asia) could be identified by back trajectory calculations using the Hybrid Single Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory model. The highest pollutant concentrations were observed in a free tropospheric pollution layer (“residual layer”), which originated from the Indian continental boundary layer. High mixing ratios of acetonitrile (up to 0.8 ppb) and submicron aerosol potassium (up to 0.6 ppb) indicate an important contribution from biomass or biofuel burning sources. On the other hand, high mixing ratios of sulfiir dioxide (up to 1.5 ppb) and aerosol sulfate (up to 3 ppb) indicate the influence of fossil fuel burning. During most flights the contributions from these two sources were well mixed within the same air mass, suggesting that the sources on the ground are also close to each other. This is consistent with the assumption that biomass is mainly burnt as biofuel for domestic use in populated areas, where fossil fuel is also used. The ratios dX/dCQ (X=acetone, acetonitrile, sulfur dioxide, potassium, or sulfate) measured during the flights indicate that most of the CO in the continental outflow is due to biomass or biofuel burning, whereas the majority of the aerosols results from fossil fuel burning.