Simulated sensitivity of secondary organic aerosol in the South Coast Air Basin of California to nitrogen oxides and other chemical parameters
Griffin, Robert J.; Dawson, Matthew L.; Dabdub, Donald
Sensitivity of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) concentrations in the South Coast Air Basin (SoCAB) of California to nitrogen oxide (NOx) emission is simulated using gas-phase chemistry and gas-particle partitioning modules. These modules are implemented into a three-dimensional air quality model applied for high-pollution summer meteorology and 2008 emissions. To test sensitivity, NOx emissions in all locations and at all times are scaled by factors ranging from 0.1 to 10.0 in separate model runs. The basin-wide average SOA concentration exhibits a ‘turnover’ NOx emission multiplicative factor, above and below which the average SOA concentration decreases. For the entire SoCAB, this critical NOx emission factor is ∼0.3; while the magnitude of SOA concentrations changes with time, this peak value (∼0.2–0.3) appears to be relatively independent of the hour of the simulated day. When considering individual locations within the SoCAB, this peak factor shows a slightly broader range. Projected emissions for 2023 indicate a decrease in basin-average SOA concentration; the response at individual locations, however, can be either positive or negative, indicating the need for location-specific considerations. Ensembles of module simulations based on parameter values selected using efficient sampling techniques (Latin Hypercube method) are used to identify parameters to which SOA predictions are significantly sensitive. Total SOA predictions are most sensitive (in no particular order) to concentrations of O3, unsaturated species formed from the gas-phase oxidation of monoaromatic compounds, and substituted products from long-chain alkane oxidation. Secondary inorganic aerosol species, likely through influencing aerosol liquid water, control at least partially the formation of SOA upwind. In addition, the rate at which unsaturated bicyclic oxidation products of monoaromatic compounds are oxidized by hydroxyl radical impacts significantly SOA prediction. These findings emphasize the need for consideration of long-chain alkanes and monoaromatic species when designing emission control strategies.