Articles | Volume 15, issue 5
Research article
09 Mar 2015
Research article |  | 09 Mar 2015

Air quality monitoring in communities of the Canadian Arctic during the high shipping season with a focus on local and marine pollution

A. A. Aliabadi, R. M. Staebler, and S. Sharma

Abstract. The Canadian Arctic has experienced decreasing sea ice extent and increasing shipping activity in recent decades. While there are economic incentives to develop resources in the north, there are environmental concerns that increasing marine traffic will contribute to declining air quality in northern communities. In an effort to characterize the relative impact of shipping on air quality in the north, two monitoring stations have been installed in Cape Dorset and Resolute, Nunavut, and have been operational since 1 June 2013. The impact of shipping and other sources of emissions on NOx, O3, SO2, BC, and PM2.5 pollution have been characterized for the 2013 shipping season from 1 June to 1 November. In addition, a high-resolution Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) for both sites was computed. Shipping consistently increased O3 mixing ratio and PM2.5 concentration. The 90% confidence interval for mean difference in O3 mixing ratio between ship- and no ship-influenced air masses were up to 4.6–4.7 ppb and 2.5–2.7 ppb for Cape Dorset and Resolute, respectively. The same intervals for PM2.5 concentrations were up to 1.8–1.9 μg m−3 and 0.5–0.6 μg m−3. Ship-influenced air masses consistently exhibited an increase of 0.1 to 0.3 in the high-resolution AQHI compared to no ship-influenced air masses. Trajectory cluster analysis in combination with ship traffic tracking provided an estimated range for percent ship contribution to NOx, O3, SO2, and PM2.5 that were 12.9–17.5 %, 16.2–18.1 %, 16.9–18.3 %, and 19.5–31.7 % for Cape Dorset and 1.0–7.2 %, 2.9–4.8 %, 5.5–10.0 %, and 6.5–7.2 % for Resolute during the 2013 shipping season. Additional measurements in Resolute suggested that percent ship contribution to black carbon was 4.3–9.8 % and that black carbon constituted 1.3–9.7 % of total PM2.5 mass in ship plumes. Continued air quality monitoring in the above sites for future shipping seasons will improve the statistics in our analysis and characterize repeating seasonal patterns in air quality due to shipping, local pollution, and long-range transport.

Short summary
In an effort to characterize the effect of shipping on Arctic air quality during the 2013 shipping season, air-quality monitoring stations were installed in Cape Dorset and Resolute, Nunavut, Canada, to measure NOx, SO2, PM2.5, O3, and BC. Results indicate that on the order of 5--25% of local cumulative exposure to these pollutants is due to ship emissions. This approach is complementary to pollution measurements at the source and has wider applications for the impact of traffic on air quality.
Final-revised paper