Articles | Volume 12, issue 4
Research article
29 Feb 2012
Research article |  | 29 Feb 2012

Characterization of near-highway submicron aerosols in New York City with a high-resolution aerosol mass spectrometer

Y. L. Sun, Q. Zhang, J. J. Schwab, W.-N. Chen, M.-S. Bae, H.-M. Hung, Y.-C. Lin, N. L. Ng, J. Jayne, P. Massoli, L. R. Williams, and K. L. Demerjian

Abstract. Knowledge of the variations of mass concentration, chemical composition and size distributions of submicron aerosols near roadways is of importance for reducing exposure assessment uncertainties in health effects studies. The goal of this study is to deploy and evaluate an Atmospheric Sciences Research Center-Mobile Laboratory (ASRC-ML), equipped with a suite of rapid response instruments for characterization of traffic plumes, adjacent to the Long Island Expressway (LIE) – a high-traffic highway in the New York City Metropolitan Area. In total, four measurement periods, two in the morning and two in the evening were conducted at a location approximately 30 m south of the LIE. The mass concentrations and size distributions of non-refractory submicron aerosol (NR-PM1) species were measured in situ at a time resolution of 1 min by an Aerodyne High-Resolution Time-of-Flight Aerosol Mass Spectrometer, along with rapid measurements (down to 1 Hz) of gaseous pollutants (e.g. HCHO, NO2, NO, O3, and CO2, etc.), black carbon (BC), and particle number concentrations and size distributions. Particulate organics varied dramatically during periods with high traffic influences from the nearby roadway. The variations were mainly observed in the hydrocarbon-like organic aerosol (HOA), a surrogate for primary OA from vehicle emissions. The inorganic species (sulfate, ammonium, and nitrate) and oxygenated OA (OOA) showed much smoother variations indicating minor impacts from traffic emissions. The concentration and chemical composition of NR-PM1 also varied differently on different days depending on meteorology, traffic intensity and vehicle types. Overall, organics dominated the traffic-related NR-PM1 composition (>60%) with HOA accounting for a major fraction of OA. The traffic-influenced organics showed two distinct modes in mass-weighted size distributions, peaking at ∼120 nm and 500 nm (vacuum aerodynamic diameter, Dva), respectively. OOA and inorganic species appear to be internally mixed in the accumulation mode peaking at ∼500–600 nm. The enhancement of organics in traffic emissions mainly occurred at ultrafine mode dominated by HOA, with little relation to the OOA-dominated accumulation mode. From Fast Mobility Particle Sizer (FMPS) measurements, a large increase in number concentration at ∼10 nm (mobility number mean diameter, Dm) was also found due to traffic influence; though these particles typically contribute a minor fraction of total particle mass. The observed rapid variations of aerosol chemistry and microphysics may have significant implications for near-highway air pollution characterization and exposure assessments.

Final-revised paper