Articles | Volume 17, issue 18
Research article
26 Sep 2017
Research article |  | 26 Sep 2017

Joint measurements of PM2. 5 and light-absorptive PM in woodsmoke-dominated ambient and plume environments

K. Max Zhang, George Allen, Bo Yang, Geng Chen, Jiajun Gu, James Schwab, Dirk Felton, and Oliver Rattigan

Abstract. DC, also referred to as Delta-C, measures enhanced light absorption of particulate matter (PM) samples at the near-ultraviolet (UV) range relative to the near-infrared range, which has been proposed previously as a woodsmoke marker due to the presence of enhanced UV light-absorbing materials from wood combustion. In this paper, we further evaluated the applications and limitations of using DC as both a qualitative and semi-quantitative woodsmoke marker via joint continuous measurements of PM2. 5 (by nephelometer pDR-1500) and light-absorptive PM (by 2-wavelength and 7-wavelength Aethalometer®) in three northeastern US cities/towns including Rutland, VT; Saranac Lake, NY and Ithaca, NY. Residential wood combustion has shown to be the predominant source of wintertime primary PM2. 5 emissions in both Rutland and Saranac Lake, where we conducted ambient measurements. In Ithaca, we performed woodsmoke plume measurements. We compared the pDR-1500 against a FEM PM2. 5 sampler (BAM 1020), and identified a close agreement between the two instruments in a woodsmoke-dominated ambient environment. The analysis of seasonal and diurnal trends of DC, black carbon (BC, 880 nm) and PM2. 5 concentrations supports the use of DC as an adequate qualitative marker. The strong linear relationships between PM2. 5 and DC in both woodsmoke-dominated ambient and plume environments suggest that DC can reasonably serve as a semi-quantitative woodsmoke marker. We propose a DC-based indicator for woodsmoke emission, which has shown to exhibit a relatively strong linear relationship with heating demand. While we observed reproducible PM2. 5–DC relationships in similar woodsmoke-dominated ambient environments, those relationships differ significantly with different environments, and among individual woodsmoke sources. Our analysis also indicates the potential for PM2. 5–DC relationships to be utilized to distinguish different combustion and operating conditions of woodsmoke sources, and that DC–heating-demand relationships could be adopted to estimate woodsmoke emissions. However, future studies are needed to elucidate those relationships.

Short summary
Woodsmoke is a worldwide public health concern. A reliable marker for woodsmoke will be very useful in air-quality management. DC (Delta-C) has been proposed as a woodsmoke marker in previous studies. However, several researchers raised concerns of whether it is reliable. Our study took advantage of aerosol light absorption and PM2.5 data collected at three US cities/towns dominated by woodsmoke. We showed that DC can be a good qualitative and semi-quantitive marker, but with limitations.
Final-revised paper