1European Commission, Joint Research Center, Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Ispra, Italy
2European Commission, Joint Research Center, Institute for Health and Consumer Protection, Ispra, Italy
3NILU, Norwegian Institute for Air Research, Kjeller, Norway
4Lund University, Department of Physics, Division of Nuclear Physics, Lund, Sweden
5EMPA, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, Dübendorf, Switzerland
Abstract. The source contributions to carbonaceous PM2.5 aerosol were investigated at a European background site at the edge of the Po Valley, in Northern Italy, during the period January–December 2007. Carbonaceous aerosol was described as the sum of eight source components: primary (1) and secondary (2) biomass burning organic carbon, biomass burning elemental carbon (3), primary (4) and secondary (5) fossil fuel burning organic carbon, fossil fuel burning elemental carbon (6), primary (7) and secondary (8) biogenic organic carbon. The concentration of each component was quantified using a set of macro tracers (organic carbon OC, elemental carbon EC, and levoglucosan), micro tracers (arabitol and mannitol), and 14C measurements. This was the first time that 14C measurements were performed on a long time series of data able to represent the entire annual cycle. This set of 6 tracers, together with assumed uncertainty ranges of the ratios of OC-to-EC, and the fraction of modern carbon in the 8 source categories, provides strong constraints to the source contributions to carbonaceous aerosol. The uncertainty of contributions was assessed with a Quasi-Monte Carlo (QMC) method accounting for the variability of OC and EC emission factors, and the uncertainty of reference fractions of modern carbon.
During winter biomass burning composed 50% of the total carbon (TC) concentration, while in summer secondary biogenic OC accounted for 45% of TC. The contribution of primary biogenic aerosol particles was negligible during the entire year. Moreover, aerosol associated with fossil fuel burning represented 26% and 43% of TC in winter and summer, respectively. The comparison of source apportionment results in different urban and rural areas showed that the sampling site was mainly affected by local aerosol sources during winter and regional air masses from the nearby Po Valley in summer. This observation was further confirmed by back-trajectory analysis applying the Potential Source Contribution Function method to identify potential source regions. The contribution of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) to the organic mass (OM) was significant during the entire year. SOA accounted for 23% and 83% of OM during winter and summer, respectively. While the summer SOA was dominated by biogenic sources, winter SOA was mainly due to biomass and fossil fuel burning. This indicates that the oxidation of intermediate volatility organic compounds co-emitted with primary organics is a significant source of SOA, as suggested by recent model results and Aerosol Mass Spectrometer measurements in urban regions. Comparison with previous global model simulations, indicates a strong underestimate of wintertime primary aerosol emissions in this region.