Molecular characterization of organic aerosols in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal: insights into primary and secondary sources
Organic atmospheric aerosols in the Hindu Kush–Himalayas–Tibetan Plateau region are still poorly characterized. To better understand the chemical characteristics and sources of organic aerosols in the foothill region of the central Himalaya, the atmospheric aerosol samples were collected in Bode, a suburban site of the Kathmandu Valley (KV) over a 1-year period from April 2013 to April 2014. Various molecular tracers from specific sources of primary organic aerosols (POAs) and secondary organic aerosols (SOAs) were determined. Tracer-based estimation methods were employed to apportion contributions from each source. The concentrations of organic carbon (OC) and elemental carbon (EC) increased during winter with a maximum monthly average in January. Levoglucosan (a molecular tracer for biomass burning, BB) was observed as the dominant species among all the analyzed organic tracers and its annual average concentration was 788±685 ng m−3 (ranging from 58.8 to 3079 ng m−3). Isoprene-SOA (I-SOA) represented a high concentration among biogenic-SOA tracers. For the seasonality, anhydrosugars, phenolic compounds, resin acid, and aromatic SOA tracer showed similar seasonal variations with OC and EC while monosaccharides, sugar alcohols, and I-SOA tracers showed lower levels during winter. BB contributed a significant fraction to OC, averaging 24.9 %±10.4 % during the whole year, and up to 36.3 %±10.4 % in the post-monsoon season. On an annual average basis, anthropogenic toluene-derived secondary OC accounted for 8.8 % and biogenic secondary OC contributed 6.2 % to total OC. The annual contribution of fungal spores to OC was 3.2 % with a maximum during the monsoon season (5.9 %). For plant debris, it accounted for 1.4 % of OC during the monsoon. Therefore, OC is mainly associated with BB and other anthropogenic activity in the KV. Our findings are conducive to designing effective measures to mitigate the heavy air pollution and its impacts in the KV and surrounding area.