Characterization of PM2.5 and identification of transported secondary and biomass burning contribution in Seoul, Korea

Yumi Kim, Jihoon Seo, Jin Young Kim, Ji Yi Lee, Hwajin Kim, Bong Mann Kim

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The chemical and seasonal characteristics of fine particulates in Seoul, Korea, were investigated based on 24-h integrated PM2.5 measurements made over four 1-month periods in each season between October 2012 and September 2013. The four-season average concentration of PM2.5 was 37 μg m−3, and the major chemical components were secondary inorganic aerosol (SIA) species of sulfate, nitrate, and ammonium (49%), followed by organic matter (34%). The mass concentration and most of the chemical components of PM2.5 showed clear seasonal variation, with a winter-high and summer-low pattern. The winter-to-summer sulfate ratio and the winter organic carbon (OC)-to-elemental carbon (EC) ratio were unusually high compared with those in previous studies. Strong correlations of both the sulfate level and the sulfur oxidation ratio with relative humidity, and between water-soluble OC (WSOC) and SIA in winter, suggest the importance of aqueous phase chemistry for secondary aerosols. A strong correlation between non-sea salt sulfate and Na+ levels, a high Cl/Na+ ratio, and an unusual positive correlation between the nitrogen oxidation ratio and temperature during the winter indicate the influence of transported secondary emission sources from upwind urban areas and from China across the Yellow Sea. Despite the absence of local forest fires and the regulation of wood burning, a high levoglucosan concentration and its correlations with OC and WSOC indicate that Seoul was affected by biomass burning sources in the winter. The unusually high water-insoluble OC (WIOC)-to-EC ratio in winter implies additional transported combustion sources of WIOC. The strong correlation between WIOC and levoglucosan suggests the likely influence of transported biomass burning sources on the high WIOC/EC ratio during the winter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4330-4343
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • Biomass burning
  • Chemical composition
  • PM
  • Regional transport
  • Seasonal characteristic
  • Secondary aerosol
  • Seoul


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