Articles | Volume 14, issue 16
Research article
21 Aug 2014
Research article |  | 21 Aug 2014

The role of long-range transport and domestic emissions in determining atmospheric secondary inorganic particle concentrations across the UK

M. Vieno, M. R. Heal, S. Hallsworth, D. Famulari, R. M. Doherty, A. J. Dore, Y. S. Tang, C. F. Braban, D. Leaver, M. A. Sutton, and S. Reis

Abstract. Surface concentrations of secondary inorganic particle components over the UK have been analysed for 2001–2010 using the EMEP4UK regional atmospheric chemistry transport model and evaluated against measurements. Gas/particle partitioning in the EMEP4UK model simulations used a bulk approach, which may lead to uncertainties in simulated secondary inorganic aerosol. However, model simulations were able to accurately represent both the long-term decadal surface concentrations of particle sulfate and nitrate and an episode in early 2003 of substantially elevated nitrate measured across the UK by the AGANet network. The latter was identified as consisting of three separate episodes, each of less than 1 month duration, in February, March and April. The primary cause of the elevated nitrate levels across the UK was meteorological: a persistent high-pressure system, whose varying location impacted the relative importance of transboundary versus domestic emissions. Whilst long-range transport dominated the elevated nitrate in February, in contrast it was domestic emissions that mainly contributed to the March episode, and for the April episode both domestic emissions and long-range transport contributed. A prolonged episode such as the one in early 2003 can have substantial impact on annual average concentrations. The episode led to annual concentration differences at the regional scale of similar magnitude to those driven by long-term changes in precursor emissions over the full decade investigated here. The results demonstrate that a substantial part of the UK, particularly the south and southeast, may be close to or exceeding annual mean limit values because of import of inorganic aerosol components from continental Europe under specific conditions. The results reinforce the importance of employing multiple year simulations in the assessment of emissions reduction scenarios on particulate matter concentrations and the need for international agreements to address the transboundary component of air pollution.

Final-revised paper