Size distributions of elemental carbon and its contribution to light extinction in urban and rural locations in the Pearl River Delta region, China
1Atmospheric, Marine and Coastal Environment Program, Division of Environment, Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China
2Atmospheric Research Center, HKUST Fok Ying Tung Graduate School, Nansha, Guangzhou 511458, China
3Institute of Tropical and Marine Meteorology, China Meteorological Administration, Guangzhou 510058, China
4Department of Chemistry, Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China
Abstract. Elemental carbon (EC) in size-segregated aerosol samples were determined at five urban, one suburban, and one rural locations in the Pearl River Delta region in South China during 2006–2008 period. The size modal characteristics of EC were different at the urban and suburban/rural locations. The urban EC had a dominant condensation mode with a mass median aerodynamic diameter (MMAD) in the 0.36–0.43 μm range and a slightly less abundant mode in the droplet mode size (MMAD: 0.8–1.1 μm), while the suburban/rural EC had a prominent mode in the droplet mode size (MMAD: 0.7–1.1 μm) and a minor condensation mode (MMAD: 0.22–0.33 μm). Calculations using Mie theory and the measured size distributions of EC, organic carbon, and major inorganic ions indicate that EC-containing particles contributed 76% of the observed light extinction at the urban sites. Among the EC-containing particles, EC mass alone contributed 21% of the observed light extinction while non-EC materials on the EC particles (i.e. organic matter, ammonia sulfate, and water) contributed 55%. At the suburban/rural locations, EC-containing particles contributed 37–41% of the measured light extinction, with EC mass contributing 4–8% and non-EC coating materials contributing the remaining light extinction. Our results suggest that EC-containing particles were important to the overall light extinction in the urban atmospheres due to their more abundant presence from vehicular emissions. The EC-containing particles in the suburban/rural locations made a reduced but still significant contribution to light extinction budget.