Articles | Volume 13, issue 20
Research article
24 Oct 2013
Research article |  | 24 Oct 2013

Source apportionment of submicron organic aerosol at an urban background and a road site in Barcelona (Spain) during SAPUSS

M. Alier, B. L. van Drooge, M. Dall'Osto, X. Querol, J. O. Grimalt, and R. Tauler

Abstract. This study investigates the contribution of potential sources to the submicron (PM1) organic aerosol (OA) simultaneously detected at an urban background (UB) and a road site (RS) in Barcelona during the 30 days of the intensive field campaign of SAPUSS (Solving Aerosol Problems by Using Synergistic Strategies, September–October 2010). A total of 103 filters at 12 h sampling time resolution were collected at both sites. Thirty-six neutral and polar organic compounds of known emission sources and photo-chemical transformation processes were analyzed by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS). The concentrations of the trace chemical compounds analyzed are herein presented and discussed.

Additionally, OA source apportionment was performed by multivariate curve resolution–alternating least squares (MCR-ALS) and six OA components were identified at both sites: two were of primary anthropogenic OA origin and three of secondary OA origin, while a sixth one was not clearly defined. Primary organics from emissions of local anthropogenic activities (urban primary organic aerosol, or POA Urban), mainly traffic emissions but also cigarette smoke, contributed 43% (1.5 μg OC m−3) and 18% (0.4 μg OC m−3) to OA at RS and UB, respectively. A secondary primary source – biomass burning (BBOA) – was found in all the samples (average values 7% RS; 12% UB; 0.3 μg OC m−3), but this component was substantially contributing to OA only when the sampling sites were under influence of regional air mass circulation (REG.). Three secondary organic aerosol (SOA) components (describing overall 60% of the variance) were observed in the urban ambient PM1. Products of isoprene oxidation (SOA ISO) – i.e. 2-methylglyceric acid, C5 alkene triols and 2-methyltetrols – showed the highest abundance at both sites when the city was under influence of inland air masses. The overall concentrations of SOA ISO were similar at both sites (0.4 and 0.3 μg m−3, or 16% and 7%, at UB and RS, respectively). By contrast, a SOA biogenic component attributed to α-pinene oxidation (SOA BIO PIN) presented average concentrations of 0.5 μg m−3 at UB (24% of OA) and 0.2 μg m−3 at RS (7%), respectively, suggesting that this SOA component did not impact the two monitoring sites at the same level. A clear anti-correlation was observed between SOA ISO and SOA PIN during nucleation days, surprisingly suggesting that some of the growth of urban freshly nucleating particles may be driven by biogenic α-pinene oxidation products but inhibited by isoprene organic compounds. A third SOA component was formed by a mixture of aged anthropogenic and biogenic secondary organic compounds (SOA Aged) that accumulated under stagnant atmospheric conditions, contributing for 12% to OA at RS (0.4 μg OC m−3) and for 18% at UB (0.4 μg OC m−3).

A sixth component, formed by C7–C9 dicarboxylic acids and detected especially during daytime, was called "urban oxygenated organic aerosol" (OOA Urban) due to its high abundance at urban RS (23%; 0.8 μg OCm−3) vs. UB (10%; 0.2 μg OCm−3), with a well-defined daytime maximum. This temporal trend and geographical differentiation suggests that local anthropogenic sources were determining this component. However, the changes of these organic molecules were also influenced by the air mass trajectories, indicating that atmospheric conditions have an influence on this component, although the specific origin on this component remains unclear. It points to a secondary organic component driven by primary urban sources including cooking and traffic (mainly gasoline) activities.

Final-revised paper