Articles | Volume 15, issue 15
Research article
13 Aug 2015
Research article |  | 13 Aug 2015

Concentrations and solubility of trace elements in fine particles at a mountain site, southern China: regional sources and cloud processing

T. Li, Y. Wang, W. J. Li, J. M. Chen, T. Wang, and W. X. Wang

Abstract. The concentrations and solubility of twelve trace elements in PM2.5 at Mt. Lushan, southern China, were investigated during the summer of 2011 and the spring of 2012. The average PM2.5 mass was 55.2 ± 20.1 μg m−3 during the observation period. Temporal variations of all trace elements including total and water-soluble fractions with several dust storm spikes in total fractions of Al and Fe were observed. The enrichment factor (EF) values were 1 order of magnitude higher for the water-soluble fractions versus the total fractions of trace elements. Four major emission sources, namely nonferrous metal mining and smelting (for Cr, As, Ba and parts of Zn), coal combustion (for Pb, Zn, Se, Cu and Mn), crustal materials (for Al and Fe) and municipal solid waste incineration (for Cd and Mo), were classified by principal component analysis (PCA). Trajectory cluster analysis and the potential source contribution function (PSCF) consistently identified the Yangtze River delta (YRD), the Pearl River delta (PRD), and the neighbouring provinces of Mt. Lushan as the major source regions and transport pathways for anthropogenic elements. Northern China was identified as a major source region for crustal elements. It should be noted that apart from the YRD, the area around Mt. Lushan has become the most significant contributor to the solubility of most trace elements. Element solubility can be partially determined by emission sources. However, enhanced solubility of trace elements corresponding to increased concentrations of sulfate after the occurrence of cloud events indicated significant effects of cloud processing on aerosol element dissolution. Metal particles mixed with sulfate in cloud droplet residues were further investigated through transmission electron microscopy (TEM) analysis. Irreversible alteration of particle morphology by cloud processing was confirmed to be highly responsible for the enhancement of trace element solubility. The findings from this study imply an important role of regional anthropogenic pollution and cloud processing in the evolution of aerosol trace element solubility during transport in the troposphere.

Short summary
Twelve trace elements in fine particles and clouds at a mountain site in southern China were investigated. Long-range transport contributed the most to element concentrations, whereas the YRD and the area around Mt. Lushan exhibited the highest element solubility. We demonstrated that cloud processing can enhance aerosol element solubility and increase sulfate concentration correspondingly, by irreversibly altering the morphology of metal particles in cloud droplet residues.
Final-revised paper