Optical properties of atmospheric aerosol over Cape Town, Western Cape of South Africa: Role of biomass burning

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Abdulaziz Tunde Yakubu
Naven Chetty


The optical characteristics of atmospheric aerosol are vital in the determination of regional climate trends. Biomass burning is typically known to influence aerosol optical characteristics. Following the incessant biomass burning and the recent drop in precipitation over Western Cape, aerosol optical properties with a focus on the impact of biomass burning are studied over Cape Town using data from the Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET) and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). In general terms, measurements from both platforms significantly agree on the estimates of aerosol optical depth (AOD) and water vapor content. The mean AOD (0.075 ± 0.022) and the Ångström exponent (0.63 ± 0.19) derived from AERONET demonstrate the dominance of coarse mode aerosol typical of maritime aerosol. Similarly, aerosol particle size distributions display the predominance of coarse mode particles. However, the derived refractive index is more representative of urban-industrial aerosol. Also, estimated back-trajectories show that more than 70% of the aerosol particles over the region originate over the ocean. Atmospheric vapor increases from winter to summer, mainly influenced by air temperature, supersaturation level, and absorbing aerosol. Furthermore, two significant sources accounted for biomass burning related to high AOD values: local biomass burning and regionally transported aged smoke majorly from elsewhere in Sothern Africa.


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