Evaluating inter-continental transport of fine aerosols: (1) Methodology, global aerosol distribution and optical depth

Junfeng Liu, Denise Leonore Mauzerall, Larry W. Horowitz, Paul Ginoux, Arlene M. Fiore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Our objectives are to evaluate inter-continental source-receptor relationships for fine aerosols and to identify the regions whose emissions have dominant influence on receptor continents. We simulate sulfate, black carbon (BC), organic carbon (OC), and mineral dust aerosols using a global coupled chemistry-aerosol model (MOZART-2) driven with NCEP/NCAR reanalysis meteorology for 1997-2003 and emissions approximately representing year 2000. The concentrations of simulated aerosol species in general agree within a factor of 2 with observations, except that the model tends to overestimate sulfate over Europe in summer, underestimate BC and OC over the western and southeastern (SE) U.S. and Europe, and underestimate dust over the SE U.S. By tagging emissions from ten continental regions, we quantify the contribution of each region's emissions on surface aerosol concentrations (relevant for air quality) and aerosol optical depth (AOD, relevant for visibility and climate) globally. We find that domestic emissions contribute substantially to surface aerosol concentrations (57-95%) over all regions, but are responsible for a smaller fraction of AOD (26-76%). We define "background" aerosols as those aerosols over a region that result from inter-continental transport, DMS oxidation, and emissions from ships or volcanoes. Transport from other continental source regions accounts for a substantial portion of background aerosol concentrations: 36-97% for surface concentrations and 38-89% for AOD. We identify the Region of Primary Influence (RPI) as the source region with the largest contribution to the receptor's background aerosol concentrations (or AOD). We find that for dust Africa is the RPI for both aerosol concentrations and AOD over all other receptor regions. For non-dust aerosols (particularly for sulfate and BC), the RPIs for aerosol concentrations and AOD are identical for most receptor regions. These findings indicate that the reduction of the emission of non-dust aerosols and their precursors from an RPI will simultaneously improve both air quality and visibility over a receptor region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4327-4338
Number of pages12
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number28
StatePublished - Sep 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Environmental Science
  • Atmospheric Science


  • Aerosols
  • Air quality
  • Inter-continental transport
  • Optical depth
  • Source-receptor relationships


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