Measurement report: Source attribution and estimation of black carbon levels in an urban hotspot of the central Po Valley: An integrated approach combining high-resolution dispersion modelling and micro-aethalometers

Veratti, Giorgio; Bigi, Alessandro; Stortini, Michele; Teggi, Sergio; Ghermandi, Grazia

Understanding black carbon (BC) levels and their sources in urban environments is of paramount importance due to their far-reaching health, climate and air quality implications. While several recent studies have assessed BC concentrations at specific fixed urban locations, there is a notable lack of knowledge in the existing literature on spatially resolved data alongside source estimation methods. This study aims to fill this gap by conducting a comprehensive investigation of BC levels and sources in Modena (Po Valley, Italy), which serves as a representative example of a medium-sized urban area in Europe. Using a combination of multi-wavelength micro-aethalometer measurements and a hybrid Eulerian-Lagrangian modelling system, we studied two consecutive winter seasons (February–March 2020 and December 2020–January 2021). Leveraging the multi-wavelength absorption analyser (MWAA) model, we differentiate sources (fossil fuel combustion, FF, and biomass burning, BB) and components (BC vs. brown carbon, BrC) from micro-aethalometer measurements. The analysis reveals consistent, minimal diurnal variability in BrC absorption, in contrast to FF-related sources, which exhibit distinctive diurnal peaks during rush hours, while BB sources show less diurnal variation. The city itself contributes significantly to BC concentrations (52 % ± 10 %), with BB and FF playing a prominent role (35 % ± 15 % and 9 % ± 4 %, respectively). Long-distance transport also influences BC concentrations, especially in the case of BB and FF emissions, with 28 % ± 1 % and 15 % ± 2 %, respectively. When analysing the traffic related concentrations, Euro 4 diesel passenger cars considerably contribute to the exhaust emissions. These results provide valuable insights for policy makers and urban planners to manage BC levels in medium-sized urban areas, taking into account local and long-distance sources.

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Veratti, Giorgio / Bigi, Alessandro / Stortini, Michele / et al: Measurement report: Source attribution and estimation of black carbon levels in an urban hotspot of the central Po Valley: An integrated approach combining high-resolution dispersion modelling and micro-aethalometers. 2024. Copernicus Publications.

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