Articles | Volume 17, issue 5
Research article
15 Mar 2017
Research article |  | 15 Mar 2017

AIRUSE-LIFE +: estimation of natural source contributions to urban ambient air PM10 and PM2. 5 concentrations in southern Europe – implications to compliance with limit values

Evangelia Diapouli, Manousos I. Manousakas, Stergios Vratolis, Vasiliki Vasilatou, Stella Pateraki, Kyriaki A. Bairachtari, Xavier Querol, Fulvio Amato, Andrés Alastuey, Angeliki A. Karanasiou, Franco Lucarelli, Silvia Nava, Giulia Calzolai, Vorne L. Gianelle, Cristina Colombi, Célia Alves, Danilo Custódio, Casimiro Pio, Christos Spyrou, George B. Kallos, and Konstantinos Eleftheriadis

Abstract. The contribution of natural sources to ambient air particulate matter (PM) concentrations is often not considered; however, it may be significant for certain areas and during specific periods of the year. In the framework of the AIRUSE-LIFE+ project, state-of-the-art methods have been employed for assessing the contribution of major natural sources (African dust, sea salt and forest fires) to PM concentrations, in southern European urban areas. 24 h measurements of PM10 and PM2. 5 mass and chemical composition were performed over the course of a year in five cities: Porto, Barcelona, Milan, Florence and Athens. Net African dust and sea-salt concentrations were calculated based on the methodologies proposed by the EC (SEC 2011/208). The contribution of uncontrolled forest fires was calculated through receptor modelling. Sensitivity analysis with respect to the calculation of African dust was also performed, in order to identify major parameters affecting the estimated net dust concentrations. African dust contribution to PM concentrations was more pronounced in the eastern Mediterranean, with the mean annual relative contribution to PM10 decreasing from 21 % in Athens, to 5 % in Florence, and around 2 % in Milan, Barcelona and Porto. The respective contribution to PM2. 5 was calculated equal to 14 % in Athens and from 1.3 to 2.4 % in all other cities. High seasonal variability of contributions was observed, with dust transport events occurring at different periods in the western and eastern Mediterranean basin. Sea salt was mostly related to the coarse mode and also exhibited significant seasonal variability. Sea-salt concentrations were highest in Porto, with average relative contributions equal to 12.3 % for PM10. Contributions from uncontrolled forest fires were quantified only for Porto and were low on an annual basis (1.4 and 1.9 % to PM10 and PM2. 5, respectively); nevertheless, contributions were greatly increased during events, reaching 20 and 22 % of 24 h PM10 and PM2. 5 concentrations, respectively.

Short summary
This study examined the contribution of two natural sources (long-range transport of African dust and sea salt) to the airborne particulate matter concentrations, in 5 southern European cities (Porto, Barcelona, Milan, Florence, Athens). The results demonstrated that natural sources are often expressed with high-intensity events, leading even to exceedances of the EU air quality standards. This effect was more pronounced in the case of African dust intrusions in the eastern Mediterranean area.
Final-revised paper