Articles | Volume 16, issue 20
Research article
27 Oct 2016
Research article |  | 27 Oct 2016

Characterization of submicron aerosols influenced by biomass burning at a site in the Sichuan Basin, southwestern China

Wei Hu, Min Hu, Wei-Wei Hu, Hongya Niu, Jing Zheng, Yusheng Wu, Wentai Chen, Chen Chen, Lingyu Li, Min Shao, Shaodong Xie, and Yuanhang Zhang

Abstract. Severe air pollution in Asia is often the consequence of a combination of large anthropogenic emissions and adverse synoptic conditions. However, limited studies on aerosols have been conducted under high emission intensity and under unique geographical and meteorological conditions. In this study, an Aerodyne high-resolution time-of-flight aerosol mass spectrometry (HR-ToF-AMS) and other state-of-the-art instruments were utilized at a suburban site, Ziyang, in the Sichuan Basin during December 2012 to January 2013. The chemical compositions of atmospheric submicron aerosols (PM1) were determined, the sources of organic aerosols (OA) were apportioned, and the aerosol secondary formation and aging process were explored as well. Due to high humidity and static air, PM1 maintained a relatively stable level during the whole campaign, with the mean concentration of 59.7 ± 24.1 µg m−3. OA was the most abundant component (36 %) in PM1, characterized by a relatively high oxidation state. Positive matrix factorization analysis was applied to the high-resolution organic mass spectral matrix, which deconvolved OA mass spectra into four factors: low-volatility (LV-OOA) and semivolatile oxygenated OA (SV-OOA), biomass burning (BBOA) and hydrocarbon-like OA (HOA). OOA (sum of LV-OOA and SV-OOA) dominated OA as high as 71 %. In total, secondary inorganic and organic formation contributed 76 % of PM1. Secondary inorganic species correlated well (Pearson r = 0.415–0.555, p < 0.01) with relative humidity (RH), suggesting the humid air can favor the formation of secondary inorganic aerosols. As the photochemical age of OA increased with higher oxidation state, secondary organic aerosol formation contributed more to OA. The slope of OOA against Ox( = O3+NO2) steepened with the increase of RH, implying that, besides the photochemical transformation, the aqueous-phase oxidation was also an important pathway of the OOA formation. Primary emissions, especially biomass burning, resulted in high concentration and proportion of black carbon (BC) in PM1. During the episode obviously influenced by primary emissions, the contributions of BBOA to OA (26 %) and PM1 (11 %) were much higher than those (10–17 %, 4–7 %) in the clean and other polluted episodes, highlighting the significant influence of biomass burning.

Short summary
An Aerodyne high-resolution time-of-flight AMS was deployed at a suburban site in the Sichuan Basin, southwestern China, under high emission intensity, and unique geographical and adverse meteorological conditions. OA was the most abundant component (36 %) in PM1, characterized by a relatively high oxidation state. The contributions of BBOA and BC to PM1 were high in primary emission episodes, highlighting the critical influence of biomass burning.
Final-revised paper