Journal cover Journal topic
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 4801-4814, 2013
© Author(s) 2013. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
08 May 2013
Aerosol size-resolved trace metal composition in remote northern tropical Atlantic marine environment: case study Cape Verde islands
K. W. Fomba, K. Müller, D. van Pinxteren, and H. Herrmann TROPOS – Leibniz-Institute for Tropospheric Research, Permoserstr. 15, 04318 Leipzig, Germany
Abstract. Size-resolved trace metal concentrations of 15 elements in aerosol particles at the Cape Verde Atmospheric Observatory (CVAO) under remote background conditions were investigated through analysis of aerosol samples collected during intensive field studies from January 2007 to November 2011 using total reflection x-ray fluorescence (TXRF). The identification of the main air mass origin that influence remote marine aerosol in the northern tropical Atlantic has been investigated. In total, 317 samples were collected. The dataset was analyzed according to the main air mass inflow at the station. We found that remote conditions make up about 45% of the meteorological conditions in a year at CVAO and thus the northern tropical Atlantic. Surprisingly, air masses from North America are often responsible for higher trace metal concentrations in this region.

Elements such as Zn, Pb, Cu, Cr, Ni, and V were mostly found in the submicron size fractions, while elements with dominant crustal or oceanic origin such as Fe, Ti, Mn, Sr, and Rb were found in the coarse fractions (>1 μm). The highest metal concentrations, especially for Zn (3.23 ng m−3), Cu (0.81 ng m−3), Sr (2.63 ng m−3), and Cr (0.53 ng m−3), were observed in air masses originating from North America and the concentrations were within the same concentration range to those reported previously in the literature for remote marine aerosols. Fe (12.26 ng m−3), Ti (0.91 ng m−3), and Mn (0.35 ng m−3) showed higher concentrations when air mass came from Europe and the Canary Islands. Pb concentration was low (<0.20 ng m−3) and did not vary significantly with air mass direction. The low Pb concentration is indicative of the complete phase-out of leaded gasoline even in African countries. Crustal enrichment factor values decreased from fine to coarse-mode particles with low values (<4) observed for Fe, Mn, and Rb, and high values (>20) for Zn, Cu, Ni, Cr, Pb, and Se. The observed enrichment of the elements was attributed to crustal, marine, anthropogenic, and biogenic sources, as well as long-range transport and resuspension. Zn, Cu and Pb were indicators of anthropogenic activities, while Ti and Sr were indicators of crustal and marine origin, respectively. Oceanic and biogenic emissions might have contributed to most of the Se observed. This work provides the first long-term size-resolved trace metals study for remote tropical northern Atlantic marine aerosols and the dataset could serve as good initiation of yearly flux estimates.

Citation: Fomba, K. W., Müller, K., van Pinxteren, D., and Herrmann, H.: Aerosol size-resolved trace metal composition in remote northern tropical Atlantic marine environment: case study Cape Verde islands, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 4801-4814,, 2013.
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