Soot Carbon and Excess Fine Potassium: Long-Range Transport of Combustion-Derived Aerosols

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Science  10 Jun 1983:
Vol. 220, Issue 4602, pp. 1148-1151
DOI: 10.1126/science.220.4602.1148


During a cruise from Hamburg to Montevideo, aerosol samples representing air masses from Europe, the Sahara, tropical Africa, South America, and open oceanic regions were collected. They showed significant amounts of soot carbon over large areas of the remote Atlantic, often similar to concentrations in rural continental areas. Back-trajectories and the ratios of soot carbon to total fine (less than 1.7 micrometers in diameter) carbon and of excess fine potassium (the portion not attributable to soil dust or sea salt) to soot carbon indicate that biomass burning in tropical regions is an important source of soot carbon to the world atmosphere. The ratio of excess potassium to soot carbon in the fine fraction of aerosols is proposed as an indicator of the relative contributions of biomass and fossil-fuel burning to soot carbon aerosols. The ratio of soot carbon to fine carbon suggests that most of the particulate organic carbon over the Atlantic is of continental origin.