Articles | Volume 12, issue 9
Research article
08 May 2012
Research article |  | 08 May 2012

Observation of atmospheric aerosols at Mt. Hua and Mt. Tai in central and east China during spring 2009 – Part 2: Impact of dust storm on organic aerosol composition and size distribution

G. H. Wang, J. J. Li, C. L. Cheng, B. H. Zhou, M. J. Xie, S. Y. Hu, J. J. Meng, T. Sun, Y. Q. Ren, J. J. Cao, S. X. Liu, T. Zhang, and Z. Z. Zhao

Abstract. PM10 and size-resolved particles (9-stage) were simultaneously collected at Mt. Hua and Mt. Tai in central and east China during the spring of 2009 including a massive dust storm occurring on 24 April (named as DS II), and determined for organic compounds to investigate the impact of dust storm on organic aerosols. High molecular weight (HMW) n-alkanes, fatty acids, and fatty alcohols and trehalose sharply increased and almost entirely stayed in coarse particles when dust storm was present, suggesting that high level of organic aerosols in the mountain atmospheres during the event largely originated from Gobi desert plants. However, most anthropogenic aerosols (e.g. PAHs, and aromatic and dicarboxylic acids) during the event significantly decreased due to a dilution effect, indicating that anthropogenic aerosols in the mountain atmospheres during the nonevent period largely originated from local/regional sources rather than from long-range transport. Trehalose, a metabolism product enriched in biota in dry conditions, was 62 ± 78 and 421 ± 181 ng m−3 at Mt. Hua and Mt. Tai during DS II, 10–30 times higher than that in the nonevent time, indicating that trehalose may be a tracer for dust emissions from Gobi desert regions. Molecular compositions of organic aerosols in the mountain samples demonstrate that domestic coal burning is still the major source of PAHs in China.

n-Alkanes and fatty acids showed a bimodal size distribution during the nonevent with a major peak in fine mode (<2.1 μm) and a small peak in coarse mode (>2.1 μm). The coarse mode significantly increased and even dominated over the whole size range when dust was present. Glucose and trehalose were also dominant in the coarse mode especially in the DS II time. PAHs and levoglucosan concentrated in fine particles with no significant changes in size distribution when dust storm occurred. However, phthalic and succinic acids showed bimodal size distribution pattern with an increase in coarse mode during the event, because both are formed via a gas phase oxidation and a subsequent condensation/adsorption onto aerosol phase. In contrast, terephthalic and malic acids are mostly emitted from combustion process as fine particles, thus both showed a fine mode pattern during the whole campaign with a minor peak in coarse mode caused by an increased coagulation with dust during the event. Geometric mean diameters (GMDs) of the organic aerosols above are in general larger at Mt.~Hua than at Mt. Tai during the nonevent period. We found that during the event GMD of the fine mode organics that derived mostly from the local/regional sources rather than Gobi desert became smaller while GMD of them in coarse mode became larger. Such a splitting in sizes during the event is most likely caused by decreased fine particle coagulation due to dilution and increased adsorption/coagulation with dust.

Final-revised paper