Radiocarbon Analysis of Elemental and Organic Carbon in Switzerland during Winter-Smog Episodes from 2008 to 2012 – Part I: Source Apportionment and Spatial Variability

Zotter, P.; Ciobanu, V. G.; Zhang, Yanlin; El-Haddad, I.; Macchia, M.; Daellenbach, K. R.; Salazar Quintero, Gary Abdiel; Huang, R.-J.; Wacker, L.; Hueglin, C.; Piazzalunga, A.; Fermo, P.; Schwikowski, Margit; Baltensperger, U.; Szidat, Sönke; Prévôt, A. S. H. (2014). Radiocarbon Analysis of Elemental and Organic Carbon in Switzerland during Winter-Smog Episodes from 2008 to 2012 – Part I: Source Apportionment and Spatial Variability. Atmospheric chemistry and physics, 14(24), pp. 13551-13570. European Geosciences Union 10.5194/acp-14-13551-2014

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While several studies have investigated winter-time air pollution with a wide range of concentration levels, hardly any results are available for longer time periods covering several winter-smog episodes at various locations; e.g., often only a few weeks from a single winter are investigated. Here, we present source apportionment results of winter-smog episodes from 16 air pollution monitoring stations across Switzerland from five consecutive winters. Radiocarbon (14C) analyses of the elemental (EC) and organic (OC) carbon fractions, as well as levoglucosan, major water-soluble ionic species and gas-phase pollutant measurements were used to characterize the different sources of PM10. The most important contributions to PM10 during winter-smog episodes in Switzerland were on average the secondary inorganic constituents (sum of nitrate, sulfate and ammonium = 41 ± 15%) followed by organic matter (OM) (34 ± 13%) and EC (5 ± 2%). The non-fossil fractions of OC (fNF,OC) ranged on average from 69 to 85 and 80 to 95% for stations north and south of the Alps, respectively, showing that traffic contributes on average only up to ~ 30% to OC. The non-fossil fraction of EC (fNF,EC), entirely attributable to primary wood burning, was on average 42 ± 13 and 49 ± 15% for north and south of the Alps, respectively. While a high correlation was observed between fossil EC and nitrogen oxides, both primarily emitted by traffic, these species did not significantly correlate with fossil OC (OCF), which seems to suggest that a considerable amount of OCF is secondary, from fossil precursors. Elevated fNF,EC and fNF,OC values and the high correlation of the latter with other wood burning markers, including levoglucosan and water soluble potassium (K+) indicate that residential wood burning is the major source of carbonaceous aerosols during winter-smog episodes in Switzerland. The inspection of the non-fossil OC and EC levels and the relation with levoglucosan and water-soluble K+ shows different ratios for stations north and south of the Alps (most likely because of differences in burning technologies) for these two regions in Switzerland.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences (DCBP)
10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)

UniBE Contributor:

Zhang, Yanlin; Salazar Quintero, Gary Abdiel; Schwikowski, Margit and Szidat, Sönke


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
500 Science > 540 Chemistry
500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology




European Geosciences Union




Sönke Szidat

Date Deposited:

17 Feb 2015 14:56

Last Modified:

16 Jan 2021 09:54

Publisher DOI:





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