Contribution of ship traffic to aerosol particle concentrations downwind of a major shipping lane
Abstract. Particles in the atmosphere are of concern due to their toxic properties and effects on climate. In coastal areas, ship emissions can be a significant anthropogenic source. In this study we investigated the contribution from ship emissions to the total particle number and mass concentrations at a remote location. We studied the particle number concentration (12 to 490 nm in diameter), the mass concentration (12 to 150 nm in diameter) and number and volume size distribution of aerosol particles in ship plumes for a period of 4.5 months at Høvsøre, a coastal site on the western coast of Jutland in Denmark. During episodes of western winds, the site is about 50 km downwind of a major shipping lane and the plumes are approximately 1 hour old when they arrive at the site. We have used a sliding percentile-based method for separating the plumes from the measured background values and to calculate the ship plume contribution to the total particle number and PM0.15 mass concentration (mass of particles below 150 nm in diameter, converted from volume assuming sphericity) at the site. The method is not limited to particle number or volume concentration, but can also be used for different chemical species in both particle and gas phase. The total number of analyzed ship plumes was 726, covering on average 19% of the time when air masses were arriving at the site over the shipping lane. During the periods when plumes were present, the particle concentration exceeded the background values on average by 790 cm−3 by number and 0.10 μg m−3 by mass. The corresponding daily average values were 170 cm−3 and 0.023 μg m−3, respectively. This means that the ship plumes contributed between 11 and 19% to the particle number concentration and between 9 and 18% to PM0.15 during days when air was arriving over the shipping lane. The estimated annual contribution from ship plumes, where all wind directions were included, was in the range of 5–8% in particle number concentration and 4–8% in PM0.15.