Atmospheric aerosols play a substantial role in climate change through radiative forcing. Combustion-produced carbonaceous particles are the main light-absorbing aerosols; thus, quantifying their optical properties is essential for determining the magnitude of direct forcing. By using the electron energy-loss spectrum in the transmission electron microscope, we quantified the optical properties of individual, submicrometer amorphous carbon spheres that are ubiquitous in East Asian-Pacific outflow. The data indicate that these common spheres are brown, not black, with a mean refractive index of 1.67 - 0.27i (where i = √1) at a wavelength of 550 nanometers. The results suggest that brown carbon aerosols should be explicitly included in radiative forcing models.
ASJC Scopus subject areas