Organosulfates in Atlanta, Georgia: anthropogenic influences on biogenic secondary organic aerosol formation
Organosulfates are secondary organic aerosol (SOA) products that form from reactions of volatile organic compounds (VOC), such as isoprene, in the presence of sulfate that is primarily emitted by fossil fuel combustion. This study examines the anthropogenic influence on biogenic organosulfate formation at an urban site in Atlanta, Georgia (GA) in the southeastern United States (US). Organosulfates were analyzed in fine particulate matter (PM2.5) collected during August 2015 in Atlanta using hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography (HILIC), tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS), and high-resolution time-of-flight (ToF) mass spectrometry. By their MS/MS response, 32 major organosulfate species were identified, selected species were quantified, and other species were semi-quantified using surrogate standards. Organosulfates accounted for 16.5 % of PM2.5 organic carbon (OC). Isoprene-derived organosulfates were the most abundant, dominated by methyltetrol sulfate which accounted for 12.6 % of PM2.5 OC. Together, the isoprene-derived organosulfates accounted for the majority of the isoprene-derived SOA that had been previously observed in Atlanta, but had not been identified at the molecular level. Other major species included seven monoterpene-derived organosulfates, five diesel and/or biodiesel-derived organosulfates, and three new organosulfates that are also expected to derive from isoprene. Organosulfate species and concentrations in Atlanta were compared to those in a rural forested site in Centreville, Alabama (AL) during summer 2013, which were also dominated by isoprene-derived organosulfates. In Atlanta, isoprene-derived organosulfate concentrations were 2–6 times higher and accounted for twice as much OC. The greatest enhancement in concentration was observed for 2-methylglyceric acid sulfate whose formation is enhanced in the presence of nitrogen oxides (NO and NO2; NOx) and is a tracer for isoprene high-NOx SOA. The isoprene-derived organosulfates indicated a stronger influence of NOx in Atlanta compared to Centreville. Overall, these results suggest that SOA in the southeastern US can be reduced by controlling NOx and SO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion. This study gives insights into the major organosulfate species that should be targets for future measurements in urban environments and standard development.