OC/EC Workshop

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An International Workshop
for the
Development of Research Strategies for Sampling and Analysis of Organic and Elemental Carbon Fractions in Atmospheric Aerosols

March 3, 4 & 5, 2003
Durango, Colorado

("OC/EC International Workshop")

By the time it was over, 107 scientists from 18 states, and 17 countries or regions had converged on the small mountain town of Durango in southwest Colorado to initiate development of a research plan to guide future sampling, analysis and interlaboratory comparisons of carbonaceous aerosols.

The workshop brought together a diverse group of chemists, physicists, meteorologists, climatologists, graduates and post-docs from academia, government, and industry. During the two days of intense discussions, they shared ideas with the expressed intention of enhancing technological and research applications in the areas of visibility, global climate and human health. A considerable amount of information on the workshop’s eight technical questions, prepared before the gathering, was recorded during floor discussions and focus group exchanges.

By most accounts, despite significant challenges, the exchange of ideas and data represents a good start in capturing and communicating what is not known about carbonaceous aerosols, what we need to know, and how we can work together to tackle the challenges. Topics, such as reconciling different methods in order to increase the instances of comparable data across laboratories and standardization received much attention, however the prospectus of reaching consensus and perhaps even general agreement anytime soon seemed a long time away

With all that was accomplished, the gathering merely marked the beginning of a follow-up phase of drafting a research plan that describes, in considerable detail, potential projects, funding sources and how to improve inter-laboratory communication. Many participants acknowledge that now a fresh opportunity exists for more long-term comparisons of data to be conducted and having a broader international community to work together on this.

The day after the workshop, a group of eight volunteers stayed behind and began outlining the research plan. They listed six themes, or topics, for further, detailed, development: Definitions; Standardization; Thermal and Optical Filter Analysis; Organic Speciation and Sampling; Carbon Physical Properties, and; Innovative Instrumentation. The themes reflect key points brought out during workshop discussion.

The plan is expected to be utilized as a reference tool for planning research projects in the short-, mid-, and long terms. During the next couple of months, the intention is to have a number of participants develop and format a first draft, then circulate it to the broader aerosol research community for further input and development. A major guiding principle is to allow all who wish to contribute to the plan’s content and to achieving the challenging, yet rewarding, goal of improving research on carbon particulates in the atmosphere. The key to this is to utilize workshops like the OC/EC International Workshop to stimulate an inclusive, continual collaborative communication among all those involved in research related to atmospheric aerosols.

The goal is to finalize the plan within 12 months, in time for the next planned workshop on Organic Speciation, set to be held around late winter-early spring 2004.

The spirit of camaraderie and sincere dedication of the diverse workshop participants to the subject matter and to cultivating closer international communication is a significant sign that the OC/EC Research Plan has a promising future.

Sincere thanks go to the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, and National Exposure Research Lab for sponsoring the workshop and its follow-up research plan development. Thanks also go to the Western Regional Air Partnership for supporting ongoing activities in the months to come.

The “OC/EC International Workshop” is second in a series of workshops planned by a growing network of partners working to advance research that enhances understanding of visibility, global climate and human exposure issues. Members include EPA Region 8, EPA Office of Research and Development, National Park Service, Fort Lewis College, and Desert Research Institute. Many others, too numerous to list, contribute to core organizing activities and research plan development. You can learn who they are by merely staying abreast of ongoing activities, or getting involved yourself.

The first workshop, Secondary Organic Aerosols Workshop, was held Feb. 4-5, 2002 in Reno, Nevada. A Research Plan is also being developed for that subject, a draft of which can be viewed on the SOA Website.

Dr. John Watson, Desert Research Institute, will facilitate the workshop, assisted by Tim Richard, MA., Fort Lewis College/Community Services, workshop/event coordinator.

For more information about the workshop and the Research Plan for Organic and Elemental Carbon, explore this Website, contact Tim Richard at (970) 247-7066, John Watson (775) 674-7046, or any of the topic leaders who led discussions.

The Office of Community Services assists area communities, state and federal agencies, and non-profit organizations in addressing social, economic and ecological needs. It coordinates projects in human services, land-use planning, historic preservation, and public policy.

The following context-setting action statements initially guided workshop discussions:

  • Revisit fundamental approaches to addressing primary and secondary organic carbon and black/elemental carbon;
  • Clarify definitions of certain terminology, such as black carbon;
  • Optimize methods for quantifying ambient concentrations of carbonaceous aerosols;
  • Emphasize climate-related issues, as well as public health and the Regional Haze Rule;
  • Develop criteria to enhance fundamental inter-laboratory communication in the interest of creating greater uniformity in how measurements are done.

Motivation for the workshop stems from research needs to:

  • Specify thermal evolution carbon temperature fractions that separate organic compounds into more logical groupings than currently applied fractions;
  • Review, evaluate, and compare light scattering and absorption models;
  • Evaluate methods to measure black carbon as a normalization for primary and secondary organic carbon;
  • Define and organize follow-up topical workshops on organic aerosol issues;
  • Create and disseminate calibration and performance testing standards, and;
  • Develop and apply extraction and derivatization procedures that optimize organic aerosol recovery and quantification.

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