Articles | Volume 14, issue 10
Research article
20 May 2014
Research article |  | 20 May 2014

Long-term trend and variability of atmospheric PM10 concentration in the Po Valley

A. Bigi and G. Ghermandi

Abstract. The limits to atmospheric pollutant concentration set by the European Commission provide a challenging target for the municipalities in the Po Valley, because of the characteristic climatic conditions and high population density of this region. In order to assess climatology and trends in the concentration of atmospheric particles in the Po Valley, a data set of PM10 data from 41 sites across the Po Valley have been analysed, including both traffic and background sites (either urban, suburban or rural). Of these 41 sites, 18 with 10 yr or longer record have been analysed for long-term trend in deseasonalized monthly means, in annual quantiles and in monthly frequency distribution. A widespread significant decreasing trend has been observed at most sites, up to a few percent per year, by a generalized least squares and Theil–Sen method. All 41 sites have been tested for significant weekly periodicity by Kruskal–Wallis test for mean anomalies and by Wilcoxon test for weekend effect magnitude. A significant weekly periodicity has been observed for most PM10 series, particularly in summer and ascribed mainly to anthropic particulate emissions. A cluster analysis has been applied in order to highlight stations sharing similar pollution conditions over the reference period. Five clusters have been found, two encompassing the metropolitan areas of Turin and Milan and their respective nearby sites and the other three clusters gathering northeast, northwest and central Po Valley sites respectively. Finally, the observed trends in atmospheric PM10 have been compared to trends in provincial emissions of particulates and PM precursors, and analysed along with data on vehicular fleet age, composition and fuel sales. A significant basin-wide drop in emissions occurred for gaseous pollutants, contrarily to emissions of PM10 and PM2.5, whose drop was low and restricted to a few provinces. It is not clear whether the decrease for only gaseous emissions is sufficient to explain the observed drop in atmospheric PM10, or if the low drop in particulate emissions is indeed due to the uncertainty in the emission inventory data for this species.

Final-revised paper