Mixing state of aerosols and direct observation of carbonaceous and marine coatings on African dust by individual particle analysis



[1] The mixing state of aerosols collected at M'Bour, Senegal, during the Special Observing Period conducted in January–February 2006 (SOP-0) of the African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analysis project (AMMA), was studied by individual particle analysis. The sampling location on the Atlantic coast is particularly adapted for studying the mixing state of tropospheric aerosols since it is (1) located on the path of Saharan dust plumes transported westward over the northern tropical Atlantic, (2) influenced by biomass burning events particularly frequent from December to March, and (3) strongly influenced by anthropogenic emissions from polluted African cities. Particle size, morphology, and chemical composition were determined for 12,672 particles using scanning electron microscopy (automated SEM-EDX). Complementary analyses were performed using transmission electron microscopy combined with electron energy loss spectrometry (TEM-EELS) and Raman microspectrometry. Mineral dust and carbonaceous and marine compounds were predominantly found externally mixed, i.e., not present together in the same particles. Binary internally mixed particles, i.e., dust/carbonaceous, carbonaceous/marine, and dust/marine mixtures, accounted for a significant fraction of analyzed particles (from 10.5% to 46.5%). Western Sahara was identified as the main source of mineral dust. Two major types of carbonaceous particles were identified: “tar balls” probably coming from biomass burning emissions and soot from anthropogenic emissions. Regarding binary internally mixed particles, marine and carbonaceous compounds generally formed a coating on mineral dust particles. The carbonaceous coating observed at the particle scale on African dust was evidenced by the combined use of elemental and molecular microanalysis techniques, with the identification of an amorphous rather than crystallized carbon structure.