Sub-Antarctic marine aerosol: significant contributions from biogenic sources

Biogenic influences on the composition and characteristics of aerosol were investigated on Bird Island (54°00' S, 38°03' W) in the South Atlantic during November and December 2010. This remote marine environment is characterised by large seabird and seal colonies. The chemical composition of the submicron particles, measured by an aerosol mass spectrometer (AMS), was 21% non-sea-salt sulfate, 2% nitrate, 8% ammonium, 22% organics and 47% sea salt including sea salt sulfate. A new method to isolate the sea spray signature from the high-resolution AMS data was applied. Generally, the aerosol was found to be less acidic than in other marine environments due to the high availability of ammonia, from local fauna emissions. By positive matrix factorisation five different organic aerosol (OA) profiles could be isolated: an amino acid/amine factor (AA-OA, 18% of OA mass), a methanesulfonic acid OA factor (MSA-OA, 25%), a marine oxygenated OA factor (M-OOA, 41%), a sea spray OA fraction (SS-OA, 7%) and locally produced hydrocarbon-like OA (HOA, 9%). The AA-OA was dominant during the first two weeks of November and found to be related with the hatching of penguins in a nearby colony. This factor, rich in nitrogen (N : C ratio = 0.13), has implications for the biogeochemical cycling of nitrogen in the area as particulate matter is often transported over longer distances than gaseous N-rich compounds. The MSA-OA was mainly transported from more southerly latitudes where phytoplankton bloomed. The bloom was identified as one of three sources for particulate sulfate on Bird Island, next to sea salt sulfate and sulfate transported from South America. M-OOA was the dominant organic factor and found to be similar to marine OA observed at Mace Head, Ireland. An additional OA factor highly correlated with sea spray aerosol was identified (SS-OA). However, based on the available data the type of mixture, internal or external, could not be determined. Potassium was not associated with sea salt particles during 19% of the time, indicating the presence of biogenic particles in addition to the MSA-OA and AA-OA factors.


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Authors: Schmale, J., Schneider, J., Nemitz, E., Tang, Y.S., Dragosits, U., Blackall, T.D., Trathan, P.N., Phillips, G.J., Sutton, M., Braban, C.F.

On this site: Phil Trathan
3 September, 2013
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics / 13
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