Measurements of the aerosol chemical composition and mixing state in the Po Valley using multiple spectroscopic techniques

S Decesari, J Allan, C Plass-Duelmer, B J Williams, M Paglione, M C Facchini, C O'Dowd, R M Harrison, J K Gietl, H Coe, L Giulianelli, G P Gobbi, C Lanconelli, C Carbone, D Worsnop, A T Lambe, A T Ahern, F Moretti, E Tagliavini, T ElsteS Gilge, Y Zhang, M Dall'Osto

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The use of co-located multiple spectroscopic techniques can provide detailed information on the atmospheric processes regulating aerosol chemical composition and mixing state. So far, field campaigns heavily equipped with aerosol mass spectrometers have been carried out mainly in large conurbations and in areas directly affected by their outflow, whereas lesser efforts have been dedicated to continental areas characterised by a less dense urbanisation. We present here the results obtained at a background site in the Po Valley, Italy, in summer 2009. For the first time in Europe, six state-of-the-art spectrometric techniques were used in parallel: aerosol time-of-flight mass spectrometer (ATOFMS), two aerosol mass spectrometers (high-resolution time-of-flight aerosol mass spectrometer HR-ToF-AMS and soot particle aerosol mass spectrometer - SP-AMS), thermal desorption aerosol gas chromatography (TAG), chemical ionisation mass spectrometry (CIMS) and (offline) proton nuclear magnetic resonance (H-1-NMR) spectroscopy. The results indicate that, under high-pressure conditions, atmospheric stratification at night and early morning hours led to the accumulation of aerosols produced by anthropogenic sources distributed over the Po Valley plain. Such aerosols include primary components such as black carbon (BC), secondary semivolatile compounds such as ammonium nitrate and amines and a class of monocarboxylic acids which correspond to the AMS cooking organic aerosol (COA) already identified in urban areas. In daytime, the entrainment of aged air masses in the mixing layer is responsible for the accumulation of low-volatility oxygenated organic aerosol (LV-OOA) and also for the recycling of non-volatile primary species such as black carbon. According to organic aerosol source apportionment, anthropogenic aerosols accumulating in the lower layers overnight accounted for 38% of organic aerosol mass on average, another 21% was accounted for by aerosols recirculated in residual layers but still originating in northern Italy, while a substantial fraction (41 %) was due to the most aged aerosols imported from transalpine areas. The different meteorological regimes also affected the BC mixing state: in periods of enhanced stagnation and recirculation of pollutants, the number fraction of the BC-containing particles determined by ATOFMS was 75% of the total, while in the days of enhanced ventilation of the planetary boundary layer (PBL), such fraction was significantly lower (50 %) because of the relative greater influence of non-BC-containing aerosol local sources in the Po Valley. Overall, a full internal mixing between BC and the non-refractory aerosol chemical components was not observed during the experiment in this environment.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)12109-12132
    Number of pages24
    JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
    Issue number22
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


    • multivariate curve resolution
    • positive matrix factorization
    • mass-spectrometer data
    • source apportionment
    • organic aerosol
    • mexico-city
    • atmospheric aerosols
    • light-absorption
    • urban site
    • particles


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