Quantifying Bioaerosol Concentrations in Dust Clouds through Online UV-LIF and Mass Spectrometry Measurements at the Cape Verde Atmospheric Observatory

Douglas Morrison, Ian Crawford, Nicholas Marsden, Michael Flynn, Katie Read, Luis Neves, Virginia Foot, Paul Kaye, Warren Stanley, Hugh Coe, David Topping, Martin Gallagher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Observations of the long-range transport of biological particles in the tropics via dust vectors are now seen as fundamental to the understanding of many global atmosphere-oceanic biogeochemical cycles, changes in air quality, human health, ecosystem impacts, and climate. However, there is a lack of long-term measurements quantifying their presence in such conditions. Here we present annual observations of bioaerosol concentrations based on online ultraviolet light induced fluorescence (UV-LIF) spectrometry from the global WMO/Global Atmospheric Watch (GAW) observatory on Sao Vicente Cape Verde Atmospheric Observatory. We observe the expected strong seasonal changes in absolute concentrations of bioaerosols with significant enhancements during winter due to the strong island inflow of airmass, originating from the African continent. Monthly median bioaerosol concentrations as high as 45 L−1 were found with 95th percentile values exceeding 130 L−1 during strong dust events. However, in contrast the relative fraction of bioaerosol numbers compared to total dust number concentration shows little seasonal variation. Mean bioaerosol contributions accounted for 0.4 ± 0.2 % of total coarse aerosol concentrations, only rarely exceeding 1 % during particularly strong events under appropriate conditions. Although enhancements in the median bioaerosol fraction do occur in winter, they also occur at other times of the year, likely due to the enhanced Aeolian activity driving dust events at this time from different sources. We hypothesise that this indicates the relative contribution of bioaerosol material in dust transported across the tropical Atlantic throughout the year is relatively uniform, comprised mainly of mixtures of dust and bacteria and/or bacterial fragments. We argue that this hypothesis is supported from analysis of measurements also at Cape Verde just prior to the long-term monitoring experiment where UV-LIF single particle measurements were compared with Laser Ablation Aerosol Particle Time of Flight mass spectrometer (LAAP-ToF) measurements. These clearly show a very high correlation between particles with mixed bio-silicate mass spectral signatures and UV-LIF bio-fluorescent signatures suggesting the bioaerosol concentrations are dominated by these mixtures. These observations should assist with constraining bioaerosol concentrations for tropical Global Climate Model (GCM) simulations. Note here we use the term “bioaerosol” to include mixtures of dust and bacterial material.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-29
Number of pages29
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number22
Early online date28 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2020


  • Aeolian processes
  • Aerosol
  • Atmospheric sciences
  • Bioaerosol
  • Cape verde
  • Chemistry
  • Climatology
  • Indoor bioaerosol
  • Seasonality
  • Tropical Atlantic
  • Ultraviolet light


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