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Seasonal and spatial variation of organic tracers for biomass burning in PM₁ aerosols from highly insolated urban areas

van Drooge, B. L., Fontal, M., Bravo, N., Fernández, P., Fernández, M. A., Muñoz-Arnanz, J., Jiménez, B., Grimalt, J. O.
Environmental science and pollution research international 2014 v.21 no.20 pp. 11661-11670
aerosols, air, air quality, biomass, burning, cities, emissions, filters, gas chromatography, heat, isomers, mass spectrometry, relative humidity, smoke, solar radiation, summer, tracer techniques, urban areas, wildfires, winter, Iberian Peninsula, Spain
PM₁ aerosol characterization on organic tracers for biomass burning (levoglucosan and its isomers and dehydroabietic acid) was conducted within the AERTRANS project. PM₁ filters (N = 90) were sampled from 2010 to 2012 in busy streets in the urban centre of Madrid and Barcelona (Spain) at ground-level and at roof sites. In both urban areas, biomass burning was not expected to be an important local emission source, but regional emissions from wildfires, residential heating or biomass removal may influence the air quality in the cities. Although both areas are under influence of high solar radiation, Madrid is situated in the centre of the Iberian Peninsula, while Barcelona is located at the Mediterranean Coast and under influence of marine atmospheres. Two extraction methods were applied, i.e. Soxhlet and ASE, which showed equivalent results after GC-MS analyses. The ambient air concentrations of the organic tracers for biomass burning increased by an order of magnitude at both sites during winter compared to summer. An exception was observed during a PM event in summer 2012, when the atmosphere in Barcelona was directly affected by regional wildfire smoke and levels were four times higher as those observed in winter. Overall, there was little variation between the street and roof sites in both cities, suggesting that regional biomass burning sources influence the urban areas after atmospheric transport. Despite the different atmospheric characteristics in terms of air relative humidity, Madrid and Barcelona exhibit very similar composition and concentrations of biomass burning organic tracers. Nevertheless, levoglucosan and its isomers seem to be more suitable for source apportionment purposes than dehydroabietic acid. In both urban areas, biomass burning contributions to PM were generally low (2 %) in summer, except on the day when wildfire smoke arrive to the urban area. In the colder periods the contribution increase to around 30 %, indicating that regional biomass burning has a substantial influence on the urban air quality.