Seasonal and diurnal trends in black carbon properties and co-pollutants in Mexico City
Abstract. The Mexico City metropolitan area (MCMA) is a region that continues to grow in population and vehicular traffic as well as being the largest source of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP) in Latin America. The local city government has made significant progress in controlling some of these pollutants, i.e., ozone (O3) and carbon monoxide (CO), but particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) and black carbon (BC) have shown a less positive response to mitigation strategies that have been in place for almost 3 decades. For the first time, extended measurements of equivalent black carbon (eBC), derived from light absorption measurements, have been made using a Photoacoustic Extinctiometer (PAX) over a 13 month period from March 2013 through March 2014. The daily trends in workdays (Monday through Saturday) and Sunday eBC, PM2.5 and the co-pollutants CO, O3 and NOx are evaluated with respect to the three primary seasons in the MCMA: rainy, cold and dry and warm and dry.
The maximum values in all of the particle and gas concentrations were significantly larger (Student's t test, P < 0.05) during the dry periods than in the rainy season. The changes from rainy to dry seasons for eBC, PM2.5, CO, O3 and NOx were 8.8 to 13.1 μg m−3 (40 %), 49 to 73 μg m−3 (40 %), 2.5 to 3.8 ppm (40 %), 73 to 100 ppb (30 %) and 144 to 252 ppb (53 %), respectively.
The primary factors that lead to these large changes between the wet and dry seasons are the accelerated vertical mixing of boundary layer and free tropospheric air by the formation of clouds that dilutes the concentration of the SLCPs, the decreased actinic flux that reduces the production of ozone by photochemical reactions and the heavy, almost daily rain that removes particulate matter.
A significant "weekend effect" was also identified, particularly the decrease in BC due to fewer large transport vehicles that are fueled by diesel, which produces a large fraction of the BC. The other co-pollutant concentrations are also significantly less on weekends except for O3 that shows no change in maximum values from workdays to Sundays. This lack of change is a result of the balancing effects of lower precursor gases, i.e., VOCs, offset by lower concentrations of NOx, that is an O3 inhibitor.
A comparison of the average maximum value of eBC measured during the 1 year period of the current study, with maximum values measured in shorter field campaigns in 2000 and 2006, shows no significant change in the eBC emissions over a 14 year period. This suggests that new methods may need to be developed that can decrease potentially toxic levels of this particulate pollutant.