08 Feb 2024
 | 08 Feb 2024

Measurement report: Source attribution and estimation of black carbon levels in an urban hotspot of the central Po Valley: An integrated approach combining high-resolution dispersion modelling and micro-aethalometers

Giorgio Veratti, Alessandro Bigi, Michele Stortini, Sergio Teggi, and Grazia Ghermandi

Abstract. Understanding black carbon (BC) levels and their sources in urban environments is of paramount importance due to their far-reaching health, climate and air quality implications. While several recent studies have assessed BC concentrations at specific fixed urban locations, there is a notable lack of knowledge in the existing literature on spatially resolved data alongside source estimation methods. This study aims to fill this gap by conducting a comprehensive investigation of BC levels and sources in Modena (Po Valley, Italy), which serves as a representative example of a medium-sized urban area in Europe. Using a combination of multi-wavelength micro-aethalometer measurements and a hybrid Eulerian-Lagrangian modelling system, we studied two consecutive winter seasons (February–March 2020 and December 2020–January 2021). Leveraging the multi-wavelength absorption analyser (MWAA) model, we differentiate sources (fossil fuel combustion, FF, and biomass burning, BB) and components (BC vs. brown carbon, BrC) from micro-aethalometer measurements. The analysis reveals consistent, minimal diurnal variability in BrC absorption, in contrast to FF-related sources, which exhibit distinctive diurnal peaks during rush hours, while BB sources show less diurnal variation. The city itself contributes significantly to BC concentrations (52 % ± 10 %), with BB and FF playing a prominent role (35 % ± 15 % and 9 % ± 4 %, respectively). Long-distance transport also influences BC concentrations, especially in the case of BB and FF emissions, with 28 % ± 1 % and 15 % ± 2 %, respectively. When analysing the traffic related concentrations, Euro 4 diesel passenger cars considerably contribute to the exhaust emissions. These results provide valuable insights for policy makers and urban planners to manage BC levels in medium-sized urban areas, taking into account local and long-distance sources.

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Giorgio Veratti, Alessandro Bigi, Michele Stortini, Sergio Teggi, and Grazia Ghermandi

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-2641', Anonymous Referee #2, 26 Mar 2024
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-2641', Anonymous Referee #3, 10 Jun 2024
Giorgio Veratti, Alessandro Bigi, Michele Stortini, Sergio Teggi, and Grazia Ghermandi

Data sets

Aerosol absorption data in Modena, Italy Alessandro Bigi

Giorgio Veratti, Alessandro Bigi, Michele Stortini, Sergio Teggi, and Grazia Ghermandi


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Short summary
In a study of two consecutive winter seasons, we used measurements and modeling tools to identify the levels and sources of black carbon pollution in a medium-sized urban area of the Po valley, Italy. Our findings show that biomass burning and traffic-related emissions (especially from Euro 4 diesel cars), significantly contribute to BC concentrations. This research offers crucial insights for policymakers and urban planners aiming to improve air quality in cities.