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Evaluation of δ13C in Carbonaceous Aerosol Source Apportionment at a Rural Measurement Site

Category: Air Pollution Modeling

Volume: 17 | Issue: 8 | Pages: 2081-2094
DOI: 10.4209/aaqr.2016.09.0392
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Johan Martinsson 1,2, August Andersson3, Moa K. Sporre1, Johan Friberg1, Adam Kristensson1, Erik Swietlicki1, Pål-Axel Olsson4, Kristina Eriksson Stenström1

  • 1 Division of Nuclear Physics, Lund University, SE-22100 Lund, , Sweden
  • 2 Centre for Environmental and Climate Research, Lund University, SE-22362 Lund, Sweden
  • 3 Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry (ACES) and the Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University, SE-10691 Stockholm, Sweden
  • 4 Department of Biology, Lund University, SE-22100 Lund, Sweden


Full year carbonaceous aerosol source apportionment was conducted in a rural area.
δ13C inclusion in source apportionment led to statistically insignificant changes.
Overlapping δ13C source distributions leads to aggravating separation.
Radiocarbon and levoglucosan can be considered as more robust source markers.


The stable isotope of carbon, 13C, has been used in several studies for source characterization of carbonaceous aerosol since there are specific signatures for different sources. In rural areas, the influence of different sources is complex and the application of δ13C for source characterization of the total carbonaceous aerosol (TC) can therefore be difficult, especially the separation between biomass burning and biogenic sources. We measured δ13C from 25 filter samples collected during one year at a rural background site in southern Sweden. Throughout the year, the measured δ13C showed low variability (–26.73 to –25.64‰). We found that the measured δ13C did not correlate with other commonly used source apportionment tracers (14C, levoglucosan). δ13C values showed lower variability during the cold months compared to the summer, and this narrowing of the δ13C values together with elevated levoglucosan concentrations may indicate contribution from sources with lower δ13C variation, such as biomass or fossil fuel combustion. Comparison of two Monte Carlo based source apportionment models showed no significant difference in results when δ13C was incorporated in the model. The insignificant change of redistributed fraction of carbon between the sources was mainly a consequence of relatively narrow range of δ13C values and was complicated by an unaccounted kinetic isotopic effect and overlapping δ13C end-member values for biomass burning and biogenic sources.


End-member distributions Biomass burning Biogenic aerosol

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