Organic carbon at a remote site of the western Mediterranean Basin: sources and chemistry during the ChArMEx SOP2 field experiment

Jul 21, 2017 | Atmospheric Research, References and publications

Place of publication

Atmos. Chem. Phys., 17, 8837–8865, 2017


Atmospheric Research




Instrument used for NO and NO₂ measurements




The ChArMEx (Chemistry and Aerosols Mediterranean Experiments) SOP2 (special observation period 2) field campaign took place from 15 July to 5 August 2013 in the western Mediterranean Basin at Ersa, a remote site in Cape Corse. During the campaign more than 80 volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including oxygenated species, were measured by different online and offline techniques. At the same time, an exhaustive description of the chemical composition of fine aerosols was performed with an aerosol chemical speciation monitor (ACSM). Low levels of anthropogenic VOCs (typically tens to hundreds of parts per trillion for individual species) and black carbon (0.1–0.9 µg m−3) were observed, while significant levels of biogenic species (peaking at the ppb level) were measured. Furthermore, secondary oxygenated VOCs (OVOCs) largely dominated the VOC speciation during the campaign, while organic matter (OM) dominated the aerosol chemical composition, representing 55 % of the total mass of non-refractory PM1 on average (average of 3.74 ± 1.80 µg m−3), followed by sulfate (27 %, 1.83  ±  1.06 µg  m−3), ammonium (13 %, 0.90 ± 0.55 µg m−3) and nitrate (5 %, 0.31 ± 0.18 µg m−3).

Positive matrix factorization (PMF) and concentration field (CF) analyses were performed on a database containing 42 VOCs (or grouped VOCs), including OVOCs, to identify the covariation factors of compounds that are representative of primary emissions or chemical transformation processes. A six-factor solution was found for the PMF analysis, including a primary and secondary biogenic factor correlated with temperature and exhibiting a clear diurnal profile. In addition, three anthropogenic factors characterized by compounds with various lifetimes and/or sources have been identified (long-lived, medium-lived and short-lived anthropogenic factors). The anthropogenic nature of these factors was confirmed by the CF analysis, which identified potential source areas known for intense anthropogenic emissions (north of Italy and southeast of France). Finally, a factor characterized by OVOCs of both biogenic and anthropogenic origin was found. This factor was well correlated with submicron organic aerosol (OA) measured by an aerosol chemical speciation monitor (ACSM), highlighting the close link between OVOCs and organic aerosols; the latter is mainly associated (96 %) with the secondary OA fraction. The source apportionment of OA measured by ACSM led to a three-factor solution identified as hydrogen-like OA (HOA), semi-volatile oxygenated OA (SV-OOA) and low volatility OOA (LV-OOA) for averaged mass concentrations of 0.13, 1.59 and 1.92 µg m−3, respectively.

A combined analysis of gaseous PMF factors with inorganic and organic fractions of aerosols helped distinguish between anthropogenic continental and biogenic influences on the aerosol- and gas-phase compositions.