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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 19 Nov 2019

Submitted as: research article | 19 Nov 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Atmospheric Measurement Techniques (AMT).

Evaluation of equivalent black carbon (EBC) source appointment using observations from Switzerland between 2008 and 2018

Stuart K. Grange1,2, Hanspeter Lötscher3, Andrea Fischer1, Lukas Emmenegger1, and Christoph Hueglin1 Stuart K. Grange et al.
  • 1Empa, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, Überlandstrasse 129, 8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland
  • 2Wolfson Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratories, University of York, York, YO10 5DD, United Kingdom
  • 3Amt für Natur und Umwelt Graubünden, Gürtelstrasse 89, 7001 Chur, Switzerland

Abstract. Black carbon (BC) or soot is a constituent of particulate matter (PM) which is relevant for negative human health and climate effects, and despite the lack of legal limits, it is recognised as an important atmospheric pollutant to monitor, understand, and control. Aethalometers are instruments which continuously monitor BC by measuring absorption at a number of distinct wavelengths. If collocated elemental carbon (EC) observations are used to transform these values into BC mass, by convention, the result is named equivalent black carbon (EBC). BC emitted by different combustion processes have different optical absorption characteristics and this can be used to apportion EBC mass into traffic (EBCTR) and woodburning (EBCWB) components with a data processing technique known as the aethalometer model. The aethalometer model was applied to six EBC monitoring sites across Switzerland (using data between 2008 and 2018) and was evaluated by investigating diurnal cycles, model coefficients, and ambient temperature dependence of the two EBC components. For one monitoring site, San Vittore, the aethalometer model failed to produce plausible outputs. The reason for this failure was likely due to a high load of freshly emitted wood smoke during the winter which should be thought of as a third distinct emission source. After model evaluation, the trend analysis indicated that EBCTR concentrations at the remaining five locations significantly decreased between 2008 and 2018 illustrating the successful widespread installation of diesel particulate filters (DPF) within the vehicle fleet. EBCWB also demonstrated significant deceases in most monitoring locations, but not at a monitoring site south of the Alps with a high PM load sourced from biomass burning. This indicated that the management of woodburning has be ineffective at reducing BC emissions and concentrations for this, likely representative location. The EBC/PM2.5 ratios suggested that EBC contributes 6–13 % of the PM2.5 mass in Switzerland which is important for soot and PM source management. The aethalometer model is a useful data analysis procedure, but can fail under certain conditions, thus, careful evaluation is required to ensure the method is robust and suitable in other locations.

Stuart K. Grange et al.
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Stuart K. Grange et al.
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Short summary
Black carbon (BC) is an important atmospheric pollutant and can be monitored by instruments called aethalometers. A pragmatic data processing technique called the "aethalometer model" can be used to apportion aethalometer observations into traffic and woodburning components. We present an exploratory data analysis evaluating the aethalometer model, and use the outputs for BC trend analysis across Switzerland. The aethalometer model's robustness and utility for such analyses is discussed.
Black carbon (BC) is an important atmospheric pollutant and can be monitored by instruments...