Recent laboratory and field studies have indicated that glyoxal is a potentially large contributor to secondary organic aerosol mass. We present in situ glyoxal measurements acquired with a recently developed, high sensitivity spectroscopic instrument during the CalNex 2010 field campaign in Pasadena, California. We use three methods to quantify the production and loss of glyoxal in Los Angeles and its contribution to organic aerosol. First, we calculate the difference between steady state sources and sinks of glyoxal at the Pasadena site, assuming that the remainder is available for aerosol uptake. Second, we use the Master Chemical Mechanism to construct a two-dimensional model for gas-phase glyoxal chemistry in Los Angeles, assuming that the difference between the modeled and measured glyoxal concentration is available for aerosol uptake. Third, we examine the nighttime loss of glyoxal in the absence of its photochemical sources and sinks. Using these methods we constrain the glyoxal loss to aerosol to be 0–5 × 10−5 s−1 during clear days and (1 ± 0.3) × 10−5 s−1 at night. Between 07:00–15:00 local time, the diurnally averaged secondary organic aerosol mass increases from 3.2 μg m−3 to a maximum of 8.8 μg m−3. The constraints on the glyoxal budget from this analysis indicate that it contributes 0–0.2 μg m−3 or 0–4% of the secondary organic aerosol mass.