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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Brown carbon (BrC) is an organic aerosol material that preferentially absorbs light of shorter wavelengths. Global-scale radiative impacts of BrC have been difficult to assess due to the lack of BrC observational data. To address this, aerosol filters were continuously collected with near pole-to-pole latitudinal coverage over the Pacific and Atlantic basins in three seasons as part of the Atmospheric Tomography Mission. BrC chromophores in filter extracts were measured. We find that globally, BrC was highly spatially heterogeneous, mostly detected in air masses that had been transported from regions of extensive biomass burning. We calculate the average direct radiative effect due to BrC absorption accounted for approximately 7% to 48% of the top of the atmosphere clear-sky instantaneous forcing by all absorbing carbonaceous aerosols in the remote atmosphere, indicating that BrC from biomass burning is an important component of the global radiative balance.


Earth Systems Research Center

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Geophysical Research Letters



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This is an open access article published by AGU in 2020 in Geophysical Research Letters, available online: