Articles | Volume 17, issue 3
Research article
09 Feb 2017
Research article |  | 09 Feb 2017

Sources and atmospheric processing of winter aerosols in Seoul, Korea: insights from real-time measurements using a high-resolution aerosol mass spectrometer

Hwajin Kim, Qi Zhang, Gwi-Nam Bae, Jin Young Kim, and Seung Bok Lee

Abstract. Highly time-resolved chemical characterization of nonrefractory submicrometer particulate matter (NR-PM1) was conducted in Seoul, the capital and largest metropolis of Korea, using an Aerodyne high-resolution time-of-flight aerosol mass spectrometer (HR-ToF-AMS). The measurements were performed during winter, when elevated particulate matter (PM) pollution events are often observed. This is the first time that detailed real-time aerosol measurement results have been reported from Seoul, Korea, and they reveal valuable insights into the sources and atmospheric processes that contribute to PM pollution in this region.

The average concentration of submicron aerosol (PM1 =  NR-PM1+ black carbon (BC)) was 27.5 µg m−3, and the total mass was dominated by organics (44 %), followed by nitrate (24 %) and sulfate (10 %). The average atomic ratios of oxygen to carbon (O / C), hydrogen to carbon (H / C), and nitrogen to carbon (N / C) of organic aerosols (OA) were 0.37, 1.79, and 0.018, respectively, which result in an average organic mass-to-carbon (OM / OC) ratio of 1.67. The concentrations (2.6–90.7 µg m−3) and composition of PM1 varied dynamically during the measurement period due to the influences of different meteorological conditions, emission sources, and air mass origins. Five distinct sources of OA were identified via positive matrix factorization (PMF) analysis of the HR-ToF-AMS data: vehicle emissions represented by a hydrocarbon-like OA factor (HOA, O / C  =  0.06), cooking activities represented by a cooking OA factor (COA, O / C  =  0.14), wood combustion represented by a biomass burning OA factor (BBOA, O / C  =  0.34), and secondary organic aerosol (SOA) represented by a semivolatile oxygenated OA factor (SV-OOA, O / C  = 0.56) and a low-volatility oxygenated OA factor (LV-OOA, O / C  =  0.68). On average, primary OA (POA = HOA + COA + BBOA) accounted for 59 % the OA mass, whereas SV-OOA and LV-OOA contributed 15 and 26 %, respectively.

Our results indicate that air quality in Seoul during winter is influenced strongly by secondary aerosol formation, with sulfate, nitrate, ammonium, SV-OOA, and LV-OOA together accounting for 64 % of the PM1 mass during this study. However, aerosol sources and composition were found to be significantly different between clean and polluted periods. During stagnant periods with low wind speed (WS) and high relative humidity (RH), PM concentration was generally high (average ±1σ = 43.6 ± 12.4 µg m−3) with enhanced fractions of nitrate (27 %) and SV-OOA (8 %), which suggested a strong influence from local production of secondary aerosol. Low-PM loading periods (12.6 ± 7.1 µg m−3) tended to occur under higher-WS and lower-RH conditions and appeared to be more strongly influenced by regional air masses, as indicated by higher mass fractions of sulfate (12 %) and LV-OOA (20 %) in PM1. Overall, our results indicate that PM pollutants in urban Korea originate from complex emission sources and atmospheric processes and that their concentrations and composition are controlled by various factors, including meteorological conditions, local anthropogenic emissions, and upwind sources.

Short summary
We discuss characteristics, sources, and size distributions of the PM1 composition and OA components in Seoul, Korea, in winter. The serious pollution observed was caused by a combination of various factors, including meteorological conditions, emissions from local primary sources, secondary formation, and transport of air masses from upwind locations. This will be very useful for enacting effective PM reduction strategies for Korea as well as for the broader northern pan-Eurasian region.
Final-revised paper