Estimating contributions of primary biomass combustion to fine particulate matter at sites in the western United States
Holden, Amanda S.
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Biomass combustion occurs throughout the world and has many implications for human health, air quality and visibility, and climate change. To better understand the impacts of biomass combustion in the western United States, six-day integrated fine particle samples were collected during the winter and summer seasons of 2004-2006 at seven IMPROVE sampling sites using Hi-Vol samplers. These sites included both urban and rural locations. Filter samples were analyzed for organic and elemental carbon, levoglucosan, and a suite of particulate ions. Levoglucosan, a thermal degradation product of cellulose, is a widely used tracer for primary biomass combustion. Measurements of levoglucosan and other carbohydrates were made using a new approach involving aqueous filter extraction followed by direct analysis using High Performance Anion Exchange Chromatography. In this method carbohydrates are separated on a Dionex Carbopac PA-10 column and detected using pulsed amperometry. Source profiles for primary biomass combustion were applied to each of these samples to estimate the contributions of carbon from both residential wood burning (during the winter seasons) and wildland fires (during the summer seasons). Wildland fire source profiles were determined from FLAME (Fire Lab at Missoula Experiment) campaigns at the USFS/USDA Fire Science Lab in Missoula, MT, during which fine particle samples were collected from source burns of approximately 30 fuel types. Residential wood combustion source profiles were collected from the literature. Primary biomass combustion contributions to contemporary PM2.5 carbon, determined separately from carbon isotope measurements at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, ranged from 0.4% to more than 100%. Contributions of primary biomass combustion were higher at rural sites, while urban sites showed greater contributions of fossil carbon. Primary biomass combustion contributed a larger fraction of total carbon in the summer at southern sites, while northern sites had larger contributions during the colder winter months.