Articles | Volume 15, issue 15
Research article
10 Aug 2015
Research article |  | 10 Aug 2015

Seasonal variation of secondary organic aerosol tracers in Central Tibetan Plateau

R.-Q. Shen, X. Ding, Q.-F. He, Z.-Y. Cong, Q.-Q. Yu, and X.-M. Wang

Abstract. Secondary organic aerosol (SOA) affects the earth's radiation balance and global climate. High-elevation areas are sensitive to global climate change. However, at present, SOA origins and seasonal variations are understudied in remote high-elevation areas. In this study, particulate samples were collected from July 2012 to July 2013 at the remote Nam Co (NC) site, Central Tibetan Plateau and analyzed for SOA tracers from biogenic (isoprene, monoterpenes and β-caryophyllene) and anthropogenic (aromatics) precursors. Among these compounds, isoprene SOA (SOAI) tracers represented the majority (26.6 ± 44.2 ng m−3), followed by monoterpene SOA (SOAM) tracers (0.97 ± 0.57 ng m−3), aromatic SOA (SOAA) tracer (2,3-dihydroxy-4-oxopentanoic acid, DHOPA, 0.25 ± 0.18 ng m−3) and β-caryophyllene SOA tracer (β-caryophyllenic acid, 0.09 ± 0.10 ng m−3). SOAI tracers exhibited high concentrations in the summer and low levels in the winter. The similar temperature dependence of SOAI tracers and isoprene emission suggested that the seasonal variation of SOAI tracers at the NC site was mainly influenced by the isoprene emission. The ratio of high-NOx to low-NOx products of SOAI (2-methylglyceric acid to 2-methyltetrols) was highest in the winter and lowest in the summer, due to the influence of temperature and relative humidity. The seasonal variation of SOAM tracers was impacted by monoterpenes emission and gas-particle partitioning. During the summer to the fall, temperature effect on partitioning was the dominant process influencing SOAM tracers' variation; while the temperature effect on emission was the dominant process influencing SOAM tracers' variation during the winter to the spring. SOAM tracer levels did not elevate with increased temperature in the summer, probably resulting from the counteraction of temperature effects on emission and partitioning. The concentrations of DHOPA were 1–2 orders of magnitude lower than those reported in the urban regions of the world. Due to the transport of air pollutants from the adjacent Bangladesh and northeastern India, DHOPA presented relatively higher levels in the summer. In the winter when air masses mainly came from northwestern India, mass fractions of DHOPA in total tracers increased, although its concentrations declined. The SOA-tracer method was applied to estimate secondary organic carbon (SOC) from these four precursors. The annual average of SOC was 0.22 ± 0.29 μgC m−3, with the biogenic SOC (sum of isoprene, monoterpenes and β-caryophyllene) accounting for 75 %. In the summer, isoprene was the major precursor with its SOC contributions of 81 %. In the winter when the emission of biogenic precursors largely dropped, the contributions of aromatic SOC increased. Our study implies that anthropogenic pollutants emitted in the Indian subcontinent could be transported to the TP and have an impact on SOC over the remote NC.

Short summary
1) Seasonal trends of SOA tracers and origins were studied in the remote TP for the first time. 2) Seasonal variation of isoprene SOA tracers was mainly influenced by emission. 3) Due to the transport of air pollutants from the Indian subcontinent, aromatics SOA tracer presented relatively higher levels in the summer and elevated mass fractions in the winter. 4) Biogenic SOC dominated over anthropogenic SOC in the remote TP.
Final-revised paper