Origin of the exceedances of the European daily PM limit value in regional background areas of Spain

Miguel Escudero, Xavier Querol, Anna Ávila, Emilio Cuevas

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    The origin of the daily exceedances of 50 μg PM10 m-3 (daily limit value or DLV of the EU air quality directive) and of an arbitrary daily value (DV) 35 μg PM2.5 m-3 recorded in 2001-2003 in 13 regional background stations of the Iberian Peninsula were interpreted. This was carried out by means of back-trajectory analysis, available PM model outputs, satellite data and meteorological maps. This allows the detection of high PM episodes on a regional scale and the study of their seasonal and geographical variability. The number of exceedances of the PM10 DLV ranged in 2001-2003 from 6 to 41 depending on the monitoring site. For the selected PM2.5 DV, the range of daily exceedances was 0-10 in the study period. The majority of the PM10 (>70% in most stations) and PM2.5 (17-55% in most stations) exceedances in regional background monitoring stations are caused by African dust outbreaks. These exceedances were less frequent in winter than in summer due to: (a) the frequent long range transport of dust in the warm seasons over Iberia, (b) the re-suspension associated with convective atmospheric dynamics, and (c) the relative low rainfall favouring re-suspension and high residence time of PM. Moreover, a regional contribution of secondary aerosols derived from the efficient photochemical transformation of gaseous precursors may coincide with African transport in summer. Episodes with lack of advective conditions caused 2-29% and 20-50% of the PM10 and PM2.5 exceedances. These occurred mainly in summer due to poor renovation of air masses, increased convective re-suspension, dispersion of pollutants towards rural areas and regional re-circulation and aging of air masses which result in the proliferation of secondary inorganic species. Long-range transport of PM from continental Europe caused exceedances (9-40% and 18-38% of the PM10 and PM2.5 exceedances, respectively), only in northern Iberia because, as the European air masses evolve towards the south, the pollutants suffer dispersion/dilution. Local exceedances are associated with the advection of the clean Atlantic air masses, which cannot increase PM levels to a great extent without the influence of a local source of PM. The proportion of local exceedances of PM10 and PM2.5 ranged 6-33% and 17-40%, respectively. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)730-744
    JournalAtmospheric Environment
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2007


    • African dust
    • PM10
    • PM2.5
    • Regional background
    • Spain


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