Characterization of organic aerosol in Big Bend National Park, Texas

Steven G. Brown, Pierre Herckes, Lowell Ashbaugh, Michael P. Hannigan, Sonia M. Kreidenweis, Jeffrey L. Collett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


The Big Bend Regional Aerosol and Visibility Observational (BRAVO) Study was conducted in Big Bend National Park, Texas, July through October 1999. Daily PM2.5 organic aerosol samples were collected on pre-fired quartz fiber filters. Daily concentrations were too low for detailed organic analysis by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and were grouped based on their air mass trajectories. A total of 12 composites, each containing 3-10 daily samples, were analyzed. Alkane carbon preference indices suggest primary biogenic emissions were small contributors to primary PM2.5 organic matter (OM) during the first 3 months, while in October air masses advecting from the north and south were more strongly influenced by biogenic sources. A series of trace organic compounds previously shown to serve as particle phase tracers for various carbonaceous aerosol source types were examined. Molecular tracer species were generally at or below detection limits, except for the wood smoke tracer levoglucosan in one composite, so maximum possible source influences were calculated using the detection limit as an upper bound to the tracer concentration. Wood smoke was found not to contribute significantly to PM2.5 OM, with contributions for most samples at <1% of the total organic particulate matter. Vehicular exhaust also appeared to make only minor contributions, with maximum possible influences calculated to be 1-4% of PM2.5 OM. Several factors indicate that secondary organic aerosol formation was important throughout the study, and may have significantly altered the molecular composition of the aerosol during transport.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5807-5818
Number of pages12
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number38
StatePublished - Dec 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Organic aerosol
  • Source apportionment
  • Visibility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Atmospheric Science


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