Articles | Volume 17, issue 17
Research article
01 Sep 2017
Research article |  | 01 Sep 2017

Impacts of traffic emissions on atmospheric particulate nitrate and organics at a downwind site on the periphery of Guangzhou, China

Yi Ming Qin, Hao Bo Tan, Yong Jie Li, Misha I. Schurman, Fei Li, Francesco Canonaco, André S. H. Prévôt, and Chak K. Chan

Abstract. Particulate matter (PM) pollution on the peripheries of Chinese megacities can be as serious as in cities themselves. Given the substantial vehicular emissions in inner-city areas, the direct transport of primary PM (e.g., black carbon and primary organics) and effective formation of secondary PM from precursors (e.g., NOx and volatile organic compounds) can contribute to PM pollution in buffer zones between cities. To investigate how traffic emissions in inner-city areas impact these adjacent buffer zones, a suite of real-time instruments were deployed in Panyu, downwind from central Guangzhou, from November to December 2014. Nitrate mass fraction was higher on high-PM days, with the average nitrate-to-sulfate ratio increasing from around 0.35 to 1.5 as the PM mass concentration increased from 10 to 160 µg m−3. Particulate nitrate was strongly correlated with excess ammonium (([NH4+] ∕ [SO42−] − 1.5)  ×  [SO42−]), with higher concentrations in December than in November due to lower temperatures. The organic mass fraction was the highest across all PM1 levels throughout the campaign. While organic aerosols (OA) were dominated by secondary organic aerosols (SOA  =  semi-volatile oxygenated organic aerosols + low-volatility oxygenated organic aerosols) as a campaign average, freshly emitted hydrocarbon-like organic aerosols (HOA) contributed up to 40 % of OA during high-OA periods, which typically occurred at nighttime and contributed 23.8 to 28.4 % on average. This was due to daytime traffic restrictions on heavy-duty vehicles in Guangzhou, and HOA almost increased linearly with total OA concentration. SOA increased as odd oxygen (Ox  =  O3 + NO2) increased during the day due to photochemistry. A combination of nighttime traffic emissions and daytime photochemistry contributed to the buildup of PM in Panyu. The mitigation of PM pollution in inner-city areas by reducing vehicular traffic can potentially improve air quality in peripheral areas.

Short summary
Freshly emitted HOA contributed significantly to the high concentrations of organics at night as heavy-duty vehicles enter downtown Guangzhou, while SOA contributed to the daytime high concentration. The large input of NOx, from automobile emissions, resulted in the significant formation of nitrate in both daytime and nighttime. Mitigating the PM pollution in urbanized areas such as Guangzhou can potentially benefit their peripheral cities, by reductions in traffic-related pollutants.
Final-revised paper