PM2.5 samples collected at Cork Harbour, Ireland during summer, autumn, late autumn and winter, 2008–2009 were analyzed for polar organic compounds that are useful markers for aerosol source characterization. The determined compounds include tracers for biomass burning primary particles, fungal spores, markers for secondary organic aerosol (SOA) from isoprene, α-/β-pinene, and d-limonene. Seasonal and temporal variations and other characteristic features of the detected tracers are discussed in terms of aerosol sources and processes. The biogenic species were detected only during the summer period where the contributions of isoprene SOA and fungal spores to the PM2.5 organic carbon (OC) were estimated to be 1.6% and 1% respectively. The biomass burning markers, and in particular levoglucosan, were present in all samples and attributed to the combustion of cellulose-containing fuels including wood, peat, bituminous and smokeless coal. The contribution of domestic solid fuel (DSF) burning to the measured OC mass concentration was estimated at 10.8, 50, 66.4 and 74.9% for summer, autumn, late autumn and winter periods, respectively, based on factors derived from a series of burning experiments on locally available fuels. Application of an alternative approach, namely principal component analysis–multiple linear regression (PCA–MLR), to the measured concentrations of the polar organic marker compounds used in conjunction with real-time air quality data provided similar trends and estimates for DSF combustion during all seasons except summer. This study clearly demonstrates that, despite the ban on the sale of bituminous coal in Cork and other large urban areas in Ireland, DSF combustion is still the major source of OC during autumn and winter periods and also makes a significant contribution to PM2.5 levels. The developed marker approach for estimating the contribution of DSF combustion to ambient OC concentrations can, in principle, also be applied to other locations.
- Polar organic marker compounds
- Secondary organic aerosol
- Gas chromatography/Mass spectrometry
- Principal component analysis–multiple linear regression