Recommendations for Calibration Factors for a Photo-reference Method for Aerosol Black Carbon Concentrations

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Biological Sciences

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Large measurement networks of Black Carbon (BC) aerosol are important for understanding its impacts on climate and health. PM2.5 filter samples were collected at three urban US locations and one India urban location and were analyzed for Elemental Carbon (EC) and Organic Carbon (OC) concentrations using thermo-optical analysis (TO) following the IMPROVE protocol for US samples and NIOSH protocol for India samples. Site and season-specific calibrations of an inexpensive photo-reference (PR) method were created with TO EC measurements of the US filter samples whereas method-specific calibration was prepared using India filter samples. Piece-wise calibration based on filter loading was also explored. Calibrations were applied across different sites, seasons and methods to determine Root Mean Square Error (RMSE) and average absolute error in each calibration by comparing with reference EC measurements. This paper investigates various calibrations of PR method to improve the agreement between PR method and TO EC measurements. Difference in BC estimated error remained within ±10% among three urban US site-specific calibrations, which suggests that site-specific calibrations are not necessary. Season based calibrations were found to perform best (least RMSE/Mean EC), when applied to same season test samples but resulted in large errors of up to 60% RMSE/Mean EC when applied to different seasons, thus warranting the use of season-specific calibrations of the PR method. RMSE relative to mean EC was 50% when calibration prepared from US samples (IMPROVE protocol) was used to test India samples (NIOSH protocol). However, method-specific calibration prepared from India samples reduced the error to 24%, showing the large dependency of PR method on reference BC measurement method. Calibration based on filter loading reduced the RMSE slightly for both US urban and India samples and indicated that filters with loadings higher than 20 μg cm−2 are not suitable for estimating BC by PR method.


This article was originally published in Atmospheric Pollution Research. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Atmospheric Pollution Research


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