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Spatial Characterization of Black Carbon Mass Concentration in the Atmosphere of a Southeast Asian Megacity: An Air Quality Case Study for Metro Manila, Philippines

Category: MAPS: Spatial Variation - Manila

Volume: 18 | Issue: 9 | Pages: 2301-2317
DOI: 10.4209/aaqr.2017.08.0281
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Honey Dawn Alas 1,2, Thomas Müller1, Wolfram Birmili1,6, Simonas Kecorius1, Maria Obiminda Cambaliza2,3, James Bernard B. Simpas2,3, Mylene Cayetano4, Kay Weinhold1, Edgar Vallar5, Maria Cecilia Galvez5, Alfred Wiedensohler1

  • 1 Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research, 04318 Leipzig, Germany
  • 2 The Manila Observatory, Quezon City 1101, Philippines
  • 3 Department of Physics, Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City 1108, Philippines
  • 4 Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology, University of the Philippines, Quezon City 1101, Philippines
  • 5 Applied Research for Community, Health and Environment Resilience and Sustainability (ARCHERS), De La Salle University, Manila 1004, Philippines
  • 6 Federal Environment Agency, 14195 Berlin, Germany


Fixed and mobile measurements of eBC at three sites in Metro Manila, Philippines.
Influence of meteorology and topography was observed in the urban background site.
Strong influence of traffic policies, vehicle type, and street layout at roadside.
Roadside eBC was up to 30 times the levels of European cities.
Hotspots were found in the most crowded areas.


Black carbon (BC) particles have gathered worldwide attention due to their impacts on climate and adverse health effects on humans in heavily polluted environments. Such is the case in megacities of developing and emerging countries in Southeast Asia, in which rapid urbanization, vehicles of obsolete technology, outdated air quality legislations, and crumbling infrastructure lead to poor air quality. However, since measurements of BC are generally not mandatory, its spatial and temporal characteristics, especially in developing megacities, are poorly understood. To raise awareness on the urgency of monitoring and mitigating the air quality crises in megacities, we present the results of the first intensive characterization experiment in Metro Manila, Philippines, focusing on the spatial and diurnal variability of equivalent BC (eBC).

The average mass concentration of eBC at the urban background station (UBS) was 7.0 ± 4.8 µg m–3 while at roadside (RS), hourly concentrations reached maximum values of 138 µg m–3, levels that are significantly higher than in European cities. At RS, the diurnal cycles of eBC mass concentration were connected most strongly with traffic dynamics and street configuration, while a notable influence of planetary boundary layer evolution was observed in the UBS. Results of mobile measurements conducted multiple times along two fixed routes showed high spatial variability ranging from 3-80 µg m–3 within a 500-m radius. Alarmingly, the highest concentrations were found in the most crowded areas where people spend more than eight hours a day.


Black carbon Megacity Spatial and diurnal variability Mobile measurements