Articles | Volume 18, issue 6
Research article
23 Mar 2018
Research article |  | 23 Mar 2018

Simultaneous aerosol mass spectrometry and chemical ionisation mass spectrometry measurements during a biomass burning event in the UK: insights into nitrate chemistry

Ernesto Reyes-Villegas, Michael Priestley, Yu-Chieh Ting, Sophie Haslett, Thomas Bannan, Michael Le Breton, Paul I. Williams, Asan Bacak, Michael J. Flynn, Hugh Coe, Carl Percival, and James D. Allan

Abstract. Over the past decade, there has been an increasing interest in short-term events that negatively affect air quality such as bonfires and fireworks. High aerosol and gas concentrations generated from public bonfires or fireworks were measured in order to understand the night-time chemical processes and their atmospheric implications. Nitrogen chemistry was observed during Bonfire Night with nitrogen containing compounds in both gas and aerosol phases and further N2O5 and ClNO2 concentrations, which depleted early next morning due to photolysis of NO3 radicals and ceasing production. Particulate organic oxides of nitrogen (PONs) concentrations of 2.8 µg m−3 were estimated using the m ∕ z 46 : 30 ratios from aerosol mass spectrometer (AMS) measurements, according to previously published methods. Multilinear engine 2 (ME-2) source apportionment was performed to determine organic aerosol (OA) concentrations from different sources after modifying the fragmentation table and it was possible to identify two PON factors representing primary (pPON_ME2) and secondary (sPON_ME2) contributions. A slight improvement in the agreement between the source apportionment of the AMS and a collocated AE-31 Aethalometer was observed after modifying the prescribed fragmentation in the AMS organic spectrum (the fragmentation table) to determine PON sources, which resulted in an r2 =  0.894 between biomass burning organic aerosol (BBOA) and babs_470wb compared to an r2 =  0.861 obtained without the modification. Correlations between OA sources and measurements made using time-of-flight chemical ionisation mass spectrometry with an iodide adduct ion were performed in order to determine possible gas tracers to be used in future ME-2 analyses to constrain solutions. During Bonfire Night, strong correlations (r2) were observed between BBOA and methacrylic acid (0.92), acrylic acid (0.90), nitrous acid (0.86), propionic acid, (0.85) and hydrogen cyanide (0.76). A series of oxygenated species and chlorine compounds showed good correlations with sPON_ME2 and the low volatility oxygenated organic aerosol (LVOOA) factor during Bonfire Night and an event with low pollutant concentrations. Further analysis of pPON_ME2 and sPON_ME2 was performed in order to determine whether these PON sources absorb light near the UV region using an Aethalometer. This hypothesis was tested by doing multilinear regressions between babs_470wb and BBOA, sPON_ME2 and pPON_ME2. Our results suggest that sPON_ME2 does not absorb light at 470 nm, while pPON_ME2 and LVOOA do absorb light at 470 nm. This may inform black carbon (BC) source apportionment studies from Aethalometer measurements, through investigation of the brown carbon contribution to babs_470wb.

Short summary
This work presents the analysis of a special event with high biomass burning emissions, named Bonfire Night. Nitrogen chemistry was observed and it was possible to study the night time chemistry. It was possible to quantify particulate organic oxides of nitrogen (PON) concentrations of 2.8 µg m−3 using 46 : 30 ratios from aerosol mass spectrometry measurements. The use of the receptor model positive matrix factorization (PMF) allowed to separate organic aerosols into different sources.
Final-revised paper