Brown carbon light absorption over an urban environment in northern peninsular Southeast Asia

Shantanu Kumar Pani, Neng Huei Lin, Stephen M. Griffith, Somporn Chantara, Chung Te Lee, Duangduean Thepnuan, Ying I. Tsai

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43 Scopus citations


Light-absorbing organic carbon (or brown carbon, BrC) has been recognized as a critical driver in regional-to-global climate change on account of its significant contribution to light absorption. BrC sources vary from primary combustion processes (burning of biomass, biofuel, and fossil fuel) to secondary formation in the atmosphere. This paper investigated the light-absorbing properties of BrC such as site-specific mass absorption cross-section (MACBrC), absorption Ångström exponent (AAEBrC), and the absorbing component of the refractive index (kBrC) by using light absorption measurements from a 7-wavelength aethalometer over an urban environment of Chiang Mai, Thailand in northern peninsular Southeast Asia (PSEA), from March to April 2016. The contribution of BrC to total aerosol absorption (mean ± SD) was 46 ± 9%, 29 ± 7%, 24 ± 6%, 20 ± 4%, and 15 ± 3% at 370, 470, 520, 590, and 660 nm, respectively, highlighting the significant influence of BrC absorption on the radiative imbalance over northern PSEA. Strong and significant associations between BrC light absorption and biomass-burning (BB) organic tracers highlighted the influence of primary BB emissions. The median MACBrC and kBrC values at 370 nm were 2.4 m2 g−1 and 0.12, respectively. The fractional contribution of solar radiation absorbed by BrC relative to BC (mean ± SD) in the 370–950 nm range was estimated to be 34 ± 7%, which can significantly influence the regional radiation budget and consequently atmospheric photochemistry. This study provides valuable information to understand BrC absorption over northern PSEA and can be used in model simulations to reassess the regional climatic impact with greater accuracy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116735
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
StatePublished - 1 May 2021


  • Absorption Ångström exponent
  • Biomass burning
  • Chiang Mai
  • Imaginary part of refractive index
  • Mass absorption cross-section


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