Articles | Volume 17, issue 18
Research article
25 Sep 2017
Research article |  | 25 Sep 2017

Origin and variability in volatile organic compounds observed at an Eastern Mediterranean background site (Cyprus)

Cécile Debevec, Stéphane Sauvage, Valérie Gros, Jean Sciare, Michael Pikridas, Iasonas Stavroulas, Thérèse Salameh, Thierry Leonardis, Vincent Gaudion, Laurence Depelchin, Isabelle Fronval, Roland Sarda-Esteve, Dominique Baisnée, Bernard Bonsang, Chrysanthos Savvides, Mihalis Vrekoussis, and Nadine Locoge

Abstract. More than 7000 atmospheric measurements of over 60 C2 − C16 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were conducted at a background site in Cyprus during a 1-month intensive field campaign held in March 2015. This exhaustive dataset consisted of primary anthropogenic and biogenic VOCs, including a wide range of source-specific tracers, and oxygenated VOCs (with various origins) that were measured online by flame ionization detection–gas chromatography and proton transfer mass spectrometry. Online submicron aerosol chemical composition was performed in parallel using an aerosol mass spectrometer. This study presents the high temporal variability in VOCs and their associated sources. A preliminary analysis of their time series was performed on the basis of independent tracers (NO, CO, black carbon), meteorological data and the clustering of air mass trajectories. Biogenic compounds were mainly attributed to a local origin and showed compound-specific diurnal cycles such as a daily maximum for isoprene and a nighttime maximum for monoterpenes. Anthropogenic VOCs as well as oxygenated VOCs displayed higher mixing ratios under the influence of continental air masses (i.e., western Asia), indicating that long-range transport significantly contributed to the VOC levels in the area. Source apportionment was then conducted on a database of 20 VOCs (or grouped VOCs) using a source receptor model. The positive matrix factorization and concentration field analyses were hence conducted to identify and characterize covariation factors of VOCs that were representative of primary emissions as well as chemical transformation processes. A six-factor PMF solution was selected, namely two primary biogenic factors (relative contribution of 43 % to the total mass of VOCs) for different types of emitting vegetation; three anthropogenic factors (short-lived combustion source, evaporative sources, industrial and evaporative sources; 21 % all together), identified as being either of local origin or from more distant emission zones (i.e., the south coast of Turkey); and a last factor (36 %) associated with regional background pollution (air masses transported both from the Western and Eastern Mediterranean regions). One of the two biogenic and the regional background factors were found to be the largest contributors to the VOC concentrations observed at our sampling site. Finally, a combined analysis of VOC PMF factors with source-apportioned organic aerosols (OAs) helped to better distinguish between anthropogenic and biogenic influences on the aerosol and gas phase compositions. The highest OA concentrations were observed when the site was influenced by air masses rich in semi-volatile OA (less oxidized aerosols) originating from the southwest of Asia, in contrast with OA factor contributions associated with the remaining source regions. A reinforcement of secondary OA formation also occurred due to the intense oxidation of biogenic precursors.

Short summary
An intensive field campaign was conducted in March 2015 in the Eastern Mediterranean region, at a background site of Cyprus. We performed a detailed analysis of the chemical composition of air masses in gas and aerosol phase, and we applied a source apportionment analysis in order to identify the various origins of VOCs. The results suggest that VOCs are mainly of biogenic and regional background origins.
Final-revised paper