Agnes Molnár1, Zsuzsanna Bécsi2, Kornélia Imre 1, Vera Gácser2, Zita Ferenczi3

  • 1 MTA-PE Air Chemistry Research Group, Veszprém, P.O. Box 158, H-8201, Hungary
  • 2 University of Pannonia, Veszprém, P.O. Box 158, H-8201, Hungary
  • 3 Hungarian Meteorological Service, Budapest P.O. Box 39, H-1186, Hungary

Received: April 1, 2015
Revised: February 26, 2016
Accepted: June 23, 2016
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Cite this article:
Molnár, A., Bécsi, Z., Imre, K., Gácser, V. and Ferenczi, Z. (2016). Characterization of Background Aerosol Properties during a Wintertime Smog Episode. Aerosol Air Qual. Res. 16: 1793-1804.


  • Causes and effects of wintertime smog in Central Europe.
  • Study of an intensive air pollution event in background air.
  • Attributed to regional-scale air pollution.
  • Aged aerosol is confirmed by extreme PM10, size distribution and optical properties.
  • Account for unsuccessful local abatement measures in cities.



The aim of this paper is to study the wintertime physical properties of atmospheric aerosol particles on the basis of data observed at the K-puszta regional background station in Hungary. In Hungary wintertime smog episodes are linked to strong stable air (high pressure blocking events) with thermal inversion. These atmospheric conditions are frequently formed during winter months (November–February) due to the special geographical location of the country. The formation of smog events is highly probable in cases of thermal inversion periods sustaining for at least 4 days. We discuss in the paper the role of high-pressure blocking events in aerosol properties in terms of PM10 concentrations, aerosol size distributions, new particle formation and optical properties. We found that high-pressure blocking events have significant impacts on the size distribution and particle formation processes. At K-puszta the aerosol is in highly aged state with size distribution dominated by the accumulation mode. This is further supported by the optical properties, e.g., by high scattering Ångstrom exponent and by relatively weak absorption. The most significant effect of extreme episodes is manifested in the changes in PM10 concentrations and, consequently, in aerosol optical properties. The PM10 concentrations, scattering coefficients and absorption coefficients considerably increase to extreme values that are characteristic of a heavily polluted atmosphere rather than rural air. Our results indicate that in winter, the air quality at K-puszta is often influenced by regional air pollution as shown by spatial distribution of PM10 concentration. It is found that PM10 had almost the same concentration in regional background air and in different types of urban environments. The special meteorological conditions and the role of regional-scale transport can explain why local abatements in cities cannot lead to significant improvement of the air quality during smog events.

Keywords: PM10; Aerosol size distribution; Particle formation; Scattering and absorption; Air pollution episode

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