Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 1207–1216 | Cite as

Atmospheric polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in remote European and Atlantic sites located above the boundary mixing layer

  • Barend Leendert Van DroogeEmail author
  • Pilar Fernández
  • Joan O. Grimalt
  • Evzen Stuchlík
  • Carlos J. Torres García
  • Emilio Cuevas
Research Article


Background, aim and scope

Ambient air concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) were determined at five elevated mountain sites on the European continent and the Atlantic Ocean. All sites can be considered remote background areas since they are situated above the timberline and they lack local emission sources of these compounds.

Results and discussion

Average gas phase concentrations of ΣPAH were 165, 1,475, 1,553, 1,822 and 4,443 pg m−3 for Tenerife, Pyrenees, Central Norway, Tyrolean Alps and High Tatras, respectively. Particulate phase concentrations were 55, 70, 383, 196 and 708 pg m−3, respectively. The PAH profiles of samples from the different sites are very similar, being typical of PAH mixtures after long-range atmospheric transport. Part of the fluctuations in PAH concentrations are explained by the influence of temperature on the particulate/gas phase partitioning.


The differences in PAH levels between sites, with the lowest concentrations found in Tenerife and the highest in the High Tatras, suggest the geographical influence of regional emissions on the sites, especially in the cold periods and for the sites in the eastern sector of the European continent. This is supported by air mass back-trajectories analysis for the samples on the different sites. The influence of the continent is not detectable in the case of the elevated site of Tenerife where the free troposphere has been sampled. The results in this study are consistent with the PAH levels found in soils and/or high mountain lake sediments from these areas.


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons Atmosphere High mountain sites Particulate/gas partitioning Air mass back-trajectories Soils Lake sediments 



Financial support from the EUROLIMPACS project and the GRACCIE Consolider Ingenio Network (CSD2007-00067) is acknowledged. The authors like to thank R. Vilanova and C. Martinez for analyses of atmospheric samples from GKS, ON and ER. Special thanks are due to I. Vives for her help during the writing of the manuscript. The authors thank R. Chaler and D. Fanjul for their assistance with the analytical instruments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barend Leendert Van Drooge
    • 1
    Email author
  • Pilar Fernández
    • 1
  • Joan O. Grimalt
    • 1
  • Evzen Stuchlík
    • 2
  • Carlos J. Torres García
    • 3
  • Emilio Cuevas
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Environmental Diagnostics and Water Research (IDÆA-CSIC)BarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Department of HydrologyCharles UniversityPragueCzech Republic
  3. 3.Izaña Atmospheric ObservatoryNational Institute of MeteorologySanta Cruz de TenerifeSpain

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