Articles | Volume 15, issue 6
Research article
20 Mar 2015
Research article |  | 20 Mar 2015

Sources and contributions of wood smoke during winter in London: assessing local and regional influences

L. R. Crilley, W. J. Bloss, J. Yin, D. C. S. Beddows, R. M. Harrison, J. D. Allan, D. E. Young, M. Flynn, P. Williams, P. Zotter, A. S. H. Prevot, M. R. Heal, J. F. Barlow, C. H. Halios, J. D. Lee, S. Szidat, and C. Mohr

Abstract. Determining the contribution of wood smoke to air pollution in large cities such as London is becoming increasingly important due to the changing nature of domestic heating in urban areas. During winter, biomass burning emissions have been identified as a major cause of exceedances of European air quality limits. The aim of this work was to quantify the contribution of biomass burning in London to concentrations of PM2.5 and determine whether local emissions or regional contributions were the main source of biomass smoke. To achieve this, a number of biomass burning chemical tracers were analysed at a site within central London and two sites in surrounding rural areas. Concentrations of levoglucosan, elemental carbon (EC), organic carbon (OC) and K+ were generally well correlated across the three sites. At all the sites, biomass burning was found to be a source of OC and EC, with the largest contribution of EC from traffic emissions, while for OC the dominant fraction included contributions from secondary organic aerosols, primary biogenic and cooking sources. Source apportionment of the EC and OC was found to give reasonable estimation of the total carbon from non-fossil and fossil fuel sources based upon comparison with estimates derived from 14C analysis. Aethalometer-derived black carbon data were also apportioned into the contributions from biomass burning and traffic and showed trends similar to those observed for EC. Mean wood smoke mass at the sites was estimated to range from 0.78 to 1.0 μg m−3 during the campaign in January–February 2012. Measurements on a 160 m tower in London suggested a similar ratio of brown to black carbon (reflecting wood burning and traffic respectively) in regional and London air. Peaks in the levoglucosan and K+ concentrations were observed to coincide with low ambient temperature, consistent with domestic heating as a major contributing local source in London. Overall, the source of biomass smoke in London was concluded to be a background regional source overlaid by contributions from local domestic burning emissions. This could have implications when considering future emission control strategies during winter and may be the focus of future work in order to better determine the contributing local sources.

Short summary
Wood is a renewable fuel but its combustion for residential heating releases a number of locally acting air pollutants, most notably particulate matter known to have adverse effects on human health. This paper used chemical tracers for wood smoke to estimate the contribution that burning wood makes to concentrations of airborne particles in the atmosphere of southern England and most particularly in London.
Final-revised paper