Environmental Chemistry Environmental Chemistry Society
Environmental problems - Chemical approaches
RESEARCH ARTICLE (Open Access)

Quantification of secondary organic aerosol in an Australian urban location

Melita Keywood A D , Helen Guyes B C , Paul Selleck A and Rob Gillett A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research and CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, PMB1, Aspendale, VIC 3195, Australia.

B School of Mathematical Sciences, Monash University, VIC 3800, Australia.

C Present address: Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, GPO Box 854, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: melita.keywood@csiro.au

Environmental Chemistry 8(2) 115-126 https://doi.org/10.1071/EN10100
Submitted: 6 September 2010  Accepted: 3 December 2010   Published: 2 May 2011

Environmental context. Particulate matter is detrimental to human health necessitating air quality standards to ensure that populations are not exposed to harmful levels of air pollutants. We quantified, for the first time in an Australian city, secondary organic aerosol produced in the atmosphere by chemical reactions, and show that it constitutes a significant fraction of the fine particulate matter. Secondary organic aerosol should be considered in regulations to control particulate matter and ozone.

Abstract. The contribution of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) to particulate mass (PM) in an Australian urban airshed is quantified for the first time in this work. SOA is estimated indirectly using the elemental carbon tracer method. The contribution of primary organic carbon (OC) to PM is determined using ambient air quality data, which is used to indicate photochemical activity and as a tracer for a general vehicular combustion source. In addition, levoglucosan concentrations were used to determine the contribution of wood heater emissions to primary OC. The contribution of bushfire smoke to primary OC emissions was determined from the organic and elemental carbon (OC/EC) ratios measured in bushfire source samples. The median annual SOA concentration determined in this work was 1.1 µg m–3, representing ~13% of PM2.5 median concentrations on an annual basis (assuming a ratio of organic mass (OM) to OC of 1.6). Significantly higher SOA concentrations were determined when bushfire smoke affected the airshed; however, the SOA fraction of PM2.5 was greatest during the autumn and early winter months when the formation of inversions allows build up of particles produced by domestic wood-heater emissions.

Additional keywords: EC tracer method, primary carbon.


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