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Environ Sci Technol. 2013 Jul 16;47(14):7633-43. doi: 10.1021/es4004137. Epub 2013 Jun 28.

Air quality impact and physicochemical aging of biomass burning aerosols during the 2007 San Diego wildfires.

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Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California, San Diego, California, USA.


Intense wildfires burning >360000 acres in San Diego during October, 2007 provided a unique opportunity to study the impact of wildfires on local air quality and biomass burning aerosol (BBA) aging. The size-resolved mixing state of individual particles was measured in real-time with an aerosol time-of-flight mass spectrometer (ATOFMS) for 10 days after the fires commenced. Particle concentrations were high county-wide due to the wildfires; 84% of 120-400 nm particles by number were identified as BBA, with particles <400 nm contributing to mass concentrations dangerous to public health, up to 148 μg/m(3). Evidence of potassium salts heterogeneously reacting with inorganic acids was observed with continuous high temporal resolution for the first time. Ten distinct chemical types shown as BBA factors were identified through positive matrix factorization coupled to single particle analysis, including particles comprised of potassium chloride and organic nitrogen during the beginning of the wildfires, ammonium nitrate and amines after an increase of relative humidity, and sulfate dominated when the air mass back trajectories passed through the Los Angeles port region. Understanding BBA aging processes and quantifying the size-resolved mass and number concentrations are important in determining the overall impact of wildfires on air quality, health, and climate.

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