Assessment of polar organic aerosols at a regional background site in southern Africa

Abstract

A recent paper reported GCxGC-TOFMS analysis used for the first time in southern Africa to tentatively characterise and semi-quantify ~1000 organic compounds in aerosols at Welgegund – a regional background atmospheric monitoring station. Ambient polar organic aerosols characterised are further explored in terms of temporal variations, as well as the influence of meteorology and sources. No distinct seasonal pattern was observed for the total number of polar organic compounds tentatively characterised and their corresponding semi-quantified concentrations (sum of the normalised response factors, ∑NRFs). However, the total number of polar organic compounds and ∑NRFs between late spring and early autumn seemed relatively lower compared to the period from mid-autumn to mid-winter, while there was a period during late winter and early spring with significantly lower total number of polar organic compounds and ∑NRFs. Relatively lower total number of polar organic compounds and corresponding ∑NRFs were associated with fresher plumes from a source region relatively close to Welgegund. Meteorological parameters indicated that wet removal during late spring to early autumn also contributed to lower total numbers of polar organics and associated ∑NRFs. Increased anticyclonic recirculation and more pronounced inversion layers contributed to higher total numbers of polar organic species and ∑NRFs from mid-autumn to mid-winter, while the influence of regional biomass burning during this period was also evident. The period with significantly lower total number of polar organic compounds and ∑NRFs was attributed to fresh open biomass burning plumes occurring within proximity of Welgegund, consisting mainly of volatile organic compounds and non-polar hydrocarbons. Multiple linear regression substantiated that the temporal variations in polar organic compounds were related to a combination of the factors investigated in this study.

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Acknowledgements

The authors wish to acknowledge Diederik and Jackie Hattingh and their family who are the owners of the commercial farm on which the Welgegund measurement station is situated. V. Vakkari is a beneficiary of an AXA Research Fund postdoctoral grant.

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Correspondence to Pieter G. Van Zyl.

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Booyens, W., Beukes, J.P., Van Zyl, P.G. et al. Assessment of polar organic aerosols at a regional background site in southern Africa. J Atmos Chem 76, 89–113 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10874-019-09389-y

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Keywords

  • Particulate matter
  • Organic compounds
  • Welgegund
  • GCxGC-TOFMS
  • Biomass burning
  • Multiple linear regression