Characterization of summertime coarse particulate matter in the Desert Southwest-Arizona, USA

Andrea L. Clements, Matthew Fraser, Nabin Upadhyay, Pierre Herckes, Michael Sundblom, Jeffrey Lantz, Paul A. Solomon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


A year-long study was conducted in Pinal County, AZ, to characterize coarse (2.5 - 10 μm aerodynamic diameter, AD) and fine (< 2.5 μm AD) particulate matter (PMc and PMf, respectively) to further understand spatial and temporal variations in ambient PM concentrations and composition in rural, arid environments. Measurements of PMc and PMf mass, ions, elements, and carbon concentrations at one-in-six day resolution were obtained at three sites within the region. Results from the summer of 2009 and specifically the local monsoon period are presented. The summer monsoon season (July - September) and associated rain and/or high wind events, has historically had the largest number of PM10 NAAQS exceedances within a year. Rain events served to clean the atmosphere, decreasing PMc concentrations resulting in a more uniform spatial gradient among the sites. The monsoon period also is characterized by high wind events, increasing PMc mass concentrations, possibly due to increased local wind-driven soil erosion or transport. Two PM10 NAAQS exceedances at the urban monitoring site were explained by high wind events and can likely be excluded from PM10 compliance calculations as exceptional events. At the more rural Cowtown site, PM10 NAAQS exceedances were more frequent, likely due to the impact from local dust sources. PM mass concentrations at the Cowtown site were typically higher than at the Pinal County Housing and Casa Grande sites. Crustal material was equal to 52-63% of the PMc mass concentration on average. High concentrations of phosphate and organic carbon found at the rural Cowtown were associated with local cattle feeding operations. A relatively high correlation between PMc and PMf (R2 = 0.63) indicated that the lower tail of the coarse particle fraction often impacts the fine particle fraction, increasing the PMf concentrations. Therefore, reductions in PMc sources will likely also reduce PMf concentrations, which also are near the value of the 24-hr PM2.5 NAAQS. In the desert southwest, summer monsoons are often associated with above average PM10 (<10 μm AD) mass concentrations. Competing influences of monsoon rain and wind events showed that rain suppresses ambient concentrations while high wind increase them. In this region, the PMc fraction dominates PM10 and crustal sources contribute 52-63% to local PMc mass concentrations on average. Cattle feedlot emissions are also an important source and a unique chemical signature was identified for this source. Observations suggest monsoon wind events alone cannot explain PM10 NAAQS exceedances, thus requiring these values to remain in compliance calculations rather than being removed as exceptional wind events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)764-772
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the Air and Waste Management Association
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Atmospheric Science


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