Articles | Volume 15, issue 14
Research article
23 Jul 2015
Research article |  | 23 Jul 2015

Water soluble aerosols and gases at a UK background site – Part 1: Controls of PM2.5 and PM10 aerosol composition

M. M. Twigg, C. F. Di Marco, S. Leeson, N. van Dijk, M. R. Jones, I. D. Leith, E. Morrison, M. Coyle, R. Proost, A. N. M. Peeters, E. Lemon, T. Frelink, C. F. Braban, E. Nemitz, and J. N. Cape

Abstract. There is limited availability of long-term, high temporal resolution, chemically speciated aerosol measurements which can provide further insight into the health and environmental impacts of particulate matter. The Monitor for AeRosols and Gases (MARGA, Applikon B.V., NL) allows for the characterisation of the inorganic components of PM10 and PM2.5 (NH4+, NO3-, SO42-, Cl-, Na+, K+, Ca2+, Mg2+) and inorganic reactive gases (NH3, SO2, HCl, HONO and HNO3) at hourly resolution. The following study presents 6.5 years (June 2006 to December 2012) of quasi-continuous observations of PM2.5 and PM10 using the MARGA at the UK EMEP supersite, Auchencorth Moss, SE Scotland. Auchencorth Moss was found to be representative of a remote European site with average total water soluble inorganic mass of PM2.5 of 3.82 μg m−3. Anthropogenically derived secondary inorganic aerosols (sum of NH4+, NO3- and nss-SO42−) were the dominating species (63 %) of PM2.5. In terms of equivalent concentrations, NH4+ provided the single largest contribution to PM2.5 fraction in all seasons. Sea salt was the main component (73 %) of the PMcoarse fraction (PM10-PM2.5), though NO3- was also found to make a relatively large contribution to the measured mass (17 %) providing evidence of considerable processing of sea salt in the coarse mode. There was on occasions evidence of aerosol from combustion events being transported to the site in 2012 as high K+ concentrations (deviating from the known ratio in sea salt) coincided with increases in black carbon at the site. Pollution events in PM10 (defined as concentrations > 12 μg m−3) were on average dominated by NH4+ and NO3-, where smaller loadings at the site tended to be dominated by sea salt. As with other western European sites, the charge balance of the inorganic components resolved were biased towards cations, suggesting the aerosol was basic or more likely that organic acids contributed to the charge balance. This study demonstrates the UK background atmospheric composition is primarily driven by meteorology with sea salt dominating air masses from the Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic, whereas secondary inorganic aerosols tended to dominate air masses from continental Europe.

Short summary
Hourly inorganic composition of UK background particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) has been studied for a 6.5-year period at Auchencorth Moss, Scotland. Long-range transport of both anthropogenic secondary and natural primary PM is observed, driven primarily by meteorology. The importance of nitrate, sulfate and ammonium during pollution events in the UK is demonstrated.
Final-revised paper