Sources of excess urban carbonaceous aerosol in the Pearl River Delta Region, China


Carbonaceous aerosol is one of the important constituents of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in southern China, including the Pearl River Delta (PRD) region and Hong Kong (HK). During the study period (October and December of 2002, and March and June of 2003), the monthly average organic carbon (OC) ranged from 3.52 to 7.87 μg m-3 in Hong Kong and 4.14-20.19 μg m-3 in the PRD from simultaneous measurements at three sites in HK and four sites in the PRD. Compared to the PRD, the spatial distribution of carbonaceous aerosol in Hong Kong was relatively homogeneous. Sources contributing to excess OC in the PRD were examined, which is the difference between OC concentrations measured at the PRD sites to the average level in Hong Kong. Eight primary sources contributing to excess OC were identified with chemical mass balance modeling in a combination with molecular markers analyzed by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Excess OC at Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong province, was consistently high, ranging from 9.77 to 13.6 μg m-3. Four primary sources including gasoline engine exhaust, diesel engine exhaust, biomass burning, and coal combustion accounted for more than 50% of excess OC in the PRD, especially in December (up to 76%). Mobile source emissions alone can contribute about 30% of excess OC. The unexplained or other excess OC was the highest at the rural site, but in general less than 20% at other sites. The coal combustion source contribution was unique in that it exhibited relatively homogeneous spatial distribution, indicating it was still an important source of carbonaceous aerosol in the PRD (17% of excess OC) during the study period. This analysis revealed that primary emissions are important sources of excess OC in the PRD and there is a need to reduce the emissions of mobile sources, biomass burning, and coal combustion in order to improve air quality in southern China. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.