Geoscientific Model Development (Feb 2021)

A zero-dimensional view of atmospheric degradation of levoglucosan (LEVCHEM_v1) using numerical chamber simulations

  • L. G. Suciu,
  • R. J. Griffin,
  • R. J. Griffin,
  • C. A. Masiello,
  • C. A. Masiello,
  • C. A. Masiello

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 14
pp. 907 – 921


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Here, we developed a zero-dimensional (0-D) modeling framework (LEVCHEM_v1) to provide insights into the atmospheric degradation of a key tracer emitted during biomass burning – levoglucosan (LEV), while additionally exploring its effects on the dynamics of secondary organic aerosols (SOA) and other gases. For this, we updated existing chemical mechanisms (homogeneous gas-phase chemistry and heterogeneous chemistry) in the BOXMOXv1.7 model to include the chemical degradation of LEV and its intermediary degradation products in both phases (gas and aerosol). In addition, we added a gas-particle partitioning mechanism to the model to account for the effect of evaporation and condensation on the phase-specific concentrations of LEV and its degradation products. Comparison of simulation results with measurements from various chamber experiments (spanning summer and winter conditions) show that the degradation timescale of LEV varied by phase, with gas-phase degradation occurring over ∼1.5–5 d and aerosol-phase degradation occurring over ∼8–36 h. These relatively short timescales suggest that most of the initial LEV concentration can be lost chemically or deposited locally before being transported regionally. We varied the heterogeneous reaction rate constant in a sensitivity analysis (for summer conditions only) and found that longer degradation timescales of LEV are possible, particularly in the aerosol phase (7 d), implying that some LEV may be transported regionally. The multiphase chemical degradation of LEV has effects on SOA and other gases. Several first- or second-generation products resulted from its degradation; most of the products include one or two carbonyl groups, one product contains a nitrate group, and a few products show the cleavage of C−C bonds. The relative importance of the products varies depending on the phase and the timing of the maximum concentration achieved during the simulation. Our estimated secondary organic aerosol SOA yields (4 %–32 %) reveal that conversion of LEV to secondary products is significant and occurs rapidly in the studied scenarios. LEV degradation affected other gases by increasing the concentrations of radicals and decreasing those of reactive nitrogen species. Decreases of the mixing ratios of nitrogen oxides appear to drive a more rapid increase in ozone compared with changes in volatile organic compounds levels. An important next step to confirm longer degradation timescales will be to extend the evaluation of the modeled LEV degradation beyond 3–6 h by using more extensive data from chambers and, possibly, from fire plumes. The mechanism developed here can be used in chemical transport models applied to fire plumes to trace LEV and its degradation products from source to deposition, to assess their atmospheric implications and to answer questions relevant to fire tracing, carbon and nitrogen cycling, and climate.