PerspectiveAtmospheric Science

A New Look at Aging Aerosols

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Science  11 Dec 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5959, pp. 1493-1494
DOI: 10.1126/science.1183158

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Summary

To chemists, studying the composition of the organic matter in atmospheric aerosols has been frustrating. Despite years of effort and the use of the most sophisticated techniques available, only ∼10 to 30% of the particulate organic matter (POM) has been identified as specific compounds (1). Given that POM makes up a major part of the atmospheric aerosol, this implies that typically the composition of about half of the material in atmospheric aerosols cannot be characterized as individual compounds. On page 1525 of this issue, Jimenez et al. (2) show that the effects of organic aerosol on atmospheric chemistry and climate can be discerned without knowing every one of its components. They propose a new conceptual framework that reflects the emerging view of organic aerosol as a dynamic component of atmospheric chemistry.