Polar organic compounds in rural PM2.5 aerosols from K-puszta, Hungary, during a 2003 summer field campaign: sources and diurnal variations
1Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Antwerp (Campus Drie Eiken), Universiteitsplein 1, B-2610 Antwerp, Belgium
2Department of Analytical Chemistry, Institute for Nuclear Sciences, Ghent University, Proeftuinstraat 86, B-9000 Gent, Belgium
3Air Chemistry Group of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, University of Veszprém, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Egyetem u. 10, H-8200 Veszprém, Hungary
Abstract. In the present study, we examined PM2.5 continental rural background aerosols, which were collected during a summer field campaign at K-puszta, Hungary (4 June–10 July 2003), a mixed coniferous/deciduous forest site characterized by intense solar radiation during summer. Emphasis was placed on polar oxygenated organic compounds that provide information on aerosol sources and source processes. Analysis was performed using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) after suitable sample workup consisting of extraction with methanol and derivatisation into trimethylsilyl (TMS) derivatives. The major components detected at significant atmospheric concentrations were: (a) photo-oxidation products of isoprene including the 2-methyltetrols (2-methylthreitol and 2-methylerythritol) and 2-methylglyceric acid, (b) levoglucosan, a marker for biomass burning, (c) malic acid, an end-oxidation product of unsaturated fatty acids, and (d) the sugar alcohols, arabitol and mannitol, markers for fungal spores. Diurnal patterns with highest concentrations during day-time were observed for the isoprene oxidation products, i.e., the 2-methyltetrols and 2-methylglyceric acid, which can be regarded as supporting evidence for their fast photochemical formation from their locally emitted precursor. In addition, a diurnal pattern with highest concentrations during day-time was observed for the fungal markers, arabitol and mannitol, suggesting that the release of fungal fragments that are associated with the PM2.5 aerosol is enhanced during that time. Furthermore, a diurnal pattern was also found for levoglucosan with the highest concentrations at night when wood burning may take place in the settlements around the sampling site. In contrast, malic acid did not show day/night differences but was found to follow quite closely the particulate and organic carbon mass. This is interpreted as an indication that malic acid is formed in photochemical reactions which have a much longer overall time-scale than that of isoprene photo-oxidation, and the sources of its precursors are manifold, including both anthropogenic and natural emissions. On the basis of the high concentrations found for the isoprene oxidation products, i.e., the 2-methyltetrols (28.5 ng m-3) and 2-methylglyceric acid (7.6 ng m-3), it can be concluded that rapid photo-oxidation of isoprene is an important atmospheric chemistry process that contributes to secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation at K-puszta during summer.