Dane Blanchard This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Julian Aherne

School of the Environment, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, K9J 7B8, Canada


Received: August 19, 2020
Revised: December 16, 2020
Accepted: December 29, 2020

 Copyright The Author(s). This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are cited.

Download Citation: ||https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.200528  

Cite this article:

Blanchard, D., Aherne, J. (2021). Ground-level Particulate Sulphate and Gaseous Sulphur Dioxide Downwind of an Aluminium Smelter. Aerosol Air Qual. Res. 21, 200528. https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.200528


  • Filter-packs were used to evaluate pSO42– and SO2 downwind of an aluminium smelter.
  • The concentration of pSO42– ranged from 0.03 to 2.03 µg m–3.
  • pSO42–/SO2 and pSO42–/V ratios were used to trace aerosol source.
  • In-plume pSO42– formation was occurring downwind of the smelter.
  • pSO42– contributed a minor fraction to total atmospheric S in the emission plume.


Particulate sulphate (pSO42–) is an atmospheric pollutant known to affect human/environmental health and global radiative-forcing. The Rio Tinto (RT) aluminium smelting facility in Kitimat, British Columbia, is the primary source of sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions to the surrounding Kitimat Valley, a relatively isolated and unpolluted region. A network of active two-stage filter-packs and passive-diffusive samplers was established between June 2017 to October 2018 with the objective to evaluate the spatiotemporal variation and relative contribution of pSO42– to total anthropogenic atmospheric oxidized sulphur (SOx = SO2 + pSO42–). Average pSO42– across all sites (n = 9) was 0.41 µg m–3 (24–48 hour exposures) and ranged from 0.03 to 2.03 µg m–3. In contrast, average filter-pack SO2 ranged from 0.11 to 8.9 µg m–3 (during the same exposure periods). The filter-pack pSO42–/SOx concentration ratio (Fs) increased downwind of the smelter, indicating that the relative concentration of pSO42– increased with distance from the smelter. Furthermore, the increasing pSO42–/vanadium (V) ratio (used as a tracer of smelter emissions) relative to distance confirmed particulate formation was occurring within the emission plume during the sampling period. Irrespective of in-plume aerosol formation, pSO42– contributed a relatively minor fraction of total atmospheric SOx within the emission plume (field campaign averages Fs < 20%; pSO42– < 0.1 µg S m–3; SO2 > 1.0 µg S m–3).

Keywords: Atmospheric sulphur, British Columbia, Filter-pack, Passive sampler

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