Black carbon and particulate matter mass concentrations in the Metropolitan District of Caracas, Venezuela: An assessment of temporal variation and contributing sources
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Atmospheric aerosols play an important role in atmospheric processes and human health. Characterizing atmospheric aerosols and identifying their sources in large cities is relevant to propose site-specific air pollution mitigation strategies. In this study, we measured the mass concentration of atmospheric aerosols with an aerodynamic diameter smaller than 2.5 mm (PM2.5) in the city of Caracas (urban) and in a tropical montane cloud forest (suburban site, located in a mountainous area 11 km far from Caracas) between June 2018 and October 2019. We also measured equivalent black carbon (eBC) mass concentration in PM2.5 in Caracas during the same period. Our goal is to assess PM2.5 and eBC temporal variation and identify their major sources in the area. eBC showed a pronounced diurnal cycle in the urban site, mainly modulated by traffic circulation and the diurnal changes of the mixing layer height. In contrast, PM2.5 showed stable median values during the day with slight variations like that of eBC. In the forest site, PM2.5 values were higher in the afternoons due to the convective transport of aerosols from Caracas and other surrounding urban areas located in adjacent valleys. The annual median for eBC and PM2.5 was 1.6 and 9.2 mg m–3, respectively, in the urban site, while PM2.5 in the forest site was 6.6 mg m–3. To our knowledge, these are the first measurements of this type in the northernmost area of South America. eBC and PM2.5 sources identification during wet and dry seasons was obtained by percentiles of the conditional bivariate probability function (CBPF). CBPF showed seasonal variations of eBC and PM2.5 sources and that their contributions are higher during the dry season. Biomass burning events are a relevant contributing source of aerosols for both sites of measurements inferred by fire pixels from satellite data, the national fire department’s statistics data, and backward trajectories. Our results indicate that biomass burning might affect the atmosphere on a regional scale, contribute to regional warming, and have implications for local and regional air quality and, therefore, human health.