Chemical characterization and sources of submicron aerosols in the northeastern Qinghai–Tibet Plateau: insights from high-resolution mass spectrometry

Zhang, Xinghua; Xu, Jianzhong; Kang, Shichang; Zhang, Qi; Sun, Junying

An Aerodyne high-resolution time-of-flight aerosol mass spectrometer (HR-ToF-AMS) was deployed along with other online instruments to study the highly time resolved chemistry and sources of submicron aerosols (PM1) at Waliguan (WLG) Baseline Observatory, a high-altitude (3816 m a.s.l.) background station located at the northeast edge of the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau (QTP), during 1–31 July 2017. The average PM1 mass concentration during this study was 9.1 µg m−3 (ranging from 0.3 to 28.1 µg m−3), which was distinctly higher than those (2.0–5.7 µg m−3) measured with the Aerodyne AMS at other high-elevation sites in the southern or central QTP. Sulfate showed a dominant contribution (38.1 %) to PM1 at WLG followed by organics (34.5 %), ammonium (15.2 %), nitrate (8.1 %), BC (3.0 %) and chloride (1.1 %). Accordingly, bulk aerosols appeared to be slightly acidic throughout this study, mainly related to the enhanced sulfate contribution. All chemical species peaked at the accumulation mode, indicating the well-mixed and highly aged aerosol particles at WLG from long-range transport. Positive matrix factorization (PMF) on the high-resolution organic mass spectra resolved four distinct organic aerosol (OA) components, including a traffic-related hydrocarbon-like OA (HOA), a relatively fresh biomass burning OA (BBOA), an aged biomass burning OA (agBBOA) and a more-oxidized oxygenated OA (OOA). On average, the two relatively oxidized OAs, OOA and agBBOA, contributed 34.4 % and 40.4 % of organics, respectively, while the rest were 18.4 % for BBOA and 6.8 % for HOA. Source analysis for air masses showed that higher mass concentrations of PM1 and enhanced contributions of sulfate and biomass-burning-related OA components (agBBOA + BBOA) were from the northeast of the WLG with shorter transport distance, whereas lower PM1 mass concentrations with enhanced OOA contribution were from the west after long-range transport, suggesting their distinct aerosol sources and significant impacts of regional transport on aerosol mass loadings and chemistry at WLG.

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Zhang, Xinghua / Xu, Jianzhong / Kang, Shichang / et al: Chemical characterization and sources of submicron aerosols in the northeastern Qinghai–Tibet Plateau: insights from high-resolution mass spectrometry. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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