Evidence of 1991-2013 decrease of biogenic secondary organic aerosol in response to SO2 emission controls

Eloise Ann Marais, Daniel Jacob, Jay Turner, Loretta Mickley

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27 Citations (Scopus)
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Air quality policy to decrease fine particulate matter mass concentrations (PM2.5) in the US has mainly targeted sulfate aerosol through controls on sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions. Organic aerosol (OA) instead of sulfate is now the dominant component of total PM2.5. Long-term surface observations (1991-2013) in the Southeast US in summer show parallel decreases in sulfate (2.8-4.0% a-1) and OA (1.6-1.9% a-1). Decline of anthropogenic OA emissions is uncertain but is unlikely to fully explain this trend because most OA in the Southeast US in summer is biogenic. We conducted a 1991-2013 simulation with the GEOS-Chem chemical transport model including inventory decreases in anthropogenic SO2, NOx, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emissions, constant anthropogenic primary OA emissions, and a new mechanism of aqueous-phase SOA formation from isoprene. This simulation reproduces the observed long-term decreases of sulfate and OA, and attributes the OA decrease to decline in the OA yield from biogenic isoprene as sulfate decreases (driving lower aqueous aerosol volume and acidity). Interannual OA variability in the model (mainly driven by isoprene) is also well correlated with observations. This result provides support for a large air quality co-benefit of SO2 emission controls in decreasing biogenic OA as well as sulfate.
Original languageEnglish
Article number054018
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number5
Early online date29 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2017


  • isoprene
  • SOA
  • sulfate
  • Southeast US
  • air quality
  • GEOS-Chem

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution


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