Articles | Volume 16, issue 22
Research article
24 Nov 2016
Research article |  | 24 Nov 2016

Long-range atmospheric transport of volatile monocarboxylic acids with Asian dust over a high mountain snow site, central Japan

Tomoki Mochizuki, Kimitaka Kawamura, Kazuma Aoki, and Nobuo Sugimoto

Abstract. To understand the long-range transport of monocarboxylic acids from the Asian continent to the Japanese islands, we collected snowpack samples from a pit sequence (depth ca. 6 m) at the Murodo-Daira snowfield near the summit of Mt. Tateyama, central Japan, in 2009 and 2011. Snow samples (n = 16) were analyzed for normal (C1–C10), branched chain (iC4–iC6), aromatic (benzoic and toluic acid isomers), and hydroxyl (glycolic and lactic) monocarboxylic acids, together with inorganic ions and dissolved organic carbon (DOC). Acetic acid (C2) was found to be a dominant species (average 125 ng g−1), followed by formic acid (C1) (85.7 ng g−1) and isopentanoic acid (iC5) (20.0 ng g−1). We found a strong correlation (r =  0.88) between formic plus acetic acids and non-sea-salt Ca2+ that is a proxy of Asian dust. Contributions of total monocarboxylic acids to DOC in 2009 (21.2 ± 11.6 %) were higher than that in 2011 (3.75 ± 2.62 %), being consistent with higher intensity of Asian dust in 2009 than in 2011. Formic plus acetic acids also showed a positive correlation (r =  0.90) with benzoic acid that is a tracer of automobile exhaust, indicating that monocarboxylic acids and their precursors are largely emitted from anthropogenic sources in China and/or secondarily produced in the atmosphere by photochemical processing. In addition, the ratio of formic plus acetic acids to nss–Ca2+ (0.27) was significantly higher than those (0.00036–0.0018) obtained for reference dust materials of Chinese loess deposits from the Tengger and Gobi deserts. This result suggests that volatile and semi-volatile organic acids are adsorbed on the alkaline dust particles during long-range atmospheric transport. Entrainment of organic acids by dusts is supported by a good correlation (r = 0.87) between formic plus acetic acids and pH of melt snow samples. Our study suggests that Asian alkaline dusts may be a carrier of volatile monocarboxylic acids.

Short summary
High abundances of formic and acetic acids in the snow pit samples (6 m in depth) collected at a snowfield site near Mt. Tateyama, central Japan. Formic and acetic acids are highly abundant in the snow, with dust layers in which Ca was enriched. We propose that alkaline metals in Asian dusts largely titrate gaseous organic acids during long-range atmospheric transport.
Final-revised paper