Rapid modification of cloud-nucleating ability of aerosols by biogenic emissions

Yan Ma, Sarah D. Brooks, German Vidaurre, Alexei F. Khalizov, Lin Wang, Renyi Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Although secondary organic aerosol formation is well studied, the extent to which oxidation products of biogenic volatile organic compounds condense onto primary aerosols and modify their cloud-nucleating properties remains highly uncertain. Here we show that water-soluble organic acids produced from the reaction between α-pinene and ozone rapidly accumulate onto preexisting particles forming coatings of organic materials that reach a mass fraction of 80-90% within a time period of 30 to 60 min for the reactant conditions of 7 to 37 ppbv α-pinene and 20 ppbv ozone. Cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) measurements reveal that the initially hydrophobic aerosols are rapidly converted to efficient CCN at a supersaturation of 0.22%. Our results imply that changes in the activation potential of a significant fraction of the atmospheric aerosol population are controlled by the formation and composition of coatings formed during the aging process, rather than by the original particle size or composition. Key Points Aging of aerosols by biogenic emissions is faster than previously recognized Biogenic aging of primary aerosols modifies CCN properties CCN activities of aged aerosol do not depend on primary aerosol properties

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6293-6297
Number of pages5
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 16 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


  • CCN
  • aerosol aging
  • biogenic


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