Inter-community variability in total particle number concentrations in the eastern Los Angeles air basin
Abstract. Ultrafine Particles (UFP) can display sharp gradients in their number concentrations in urban environment due to their transient nature and rapid atmospheric processing. The ability of using air pollution data generated at a central monitoring station to assess exposure relies on our understanding of the spatial variability of a specific pollutant associated with a region. High spatial variation in the concentrations of air pollutants has been reported at scales of 10s of km for areas affected by primary emissions. Spatial variability in particle number concentrations (PNC) and size distributions needs to be investigated, as the representativeness of a monitoring station in a region is premised on the assumption of homogeneity in both of these metrics. This study was conducted at six sites, one in downtown Los Angeles and five located about 40–115 km downwind in the receptor areas of Los Angeles air basin. PNC and size distribution were measured using Condensation Particle Counters (CPC) and Scanning Mobility Particle Sizer (SMPS). The seasonal and diurnal variations of PNC implied that PNC might vary significantly with meteorological conditions, even though the general patterns at the sites may remain generally similar across the year due to consistency of sources around them. Regionally transported particulate matter (PM) from upwind urban areas of Los Angeles lowered spatial variation by acting as a "homogenizing" factor during favorable meteorological conditions. Spatial variability also increased during hours of the day during which the effects of local sources predominate. The spatial variability associated with PNC (quantified using Coefficients of Divergence, CODs), averaged about 0.3, which was generally lower than that based on specific size ranges. Results showed an inverse relationship of COD with particles size, with fairly uniform values in the particle range which is associated with regional transport. Our results suggest that spatial variability, even in the receptor regions of Los Angeles Basin, should be assessed for both PNC and size distributions, and should be interpreted in context of seasonal and diurnal influences, and suitably factored if values for exposure are ascertained using a central monitoring station.