Rustenburg, South Africa
Rustenburg, South Africa

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Vakkari V.,University of Helsinki | Beukes J.P.,North West University South Africa | Laakso H.,University of Helsinki | Mabaso D.,Rustenburg Local Municipality | And 4 more authors.
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics | Year: 2013

This study presents a total of four years of sub-micron aerosol particle size distribution measurements in the southern African savannah, an environment with few previous observations covering a full seasonal cycle and the size range below 100 nm. During the first 19 months, July 2006-January 2008, the measurements were carried out at Botsalano, a semi-clean location, whereas during the latter part, February 2008-May 2010, the measurements were carried out at Marikana (approximately 150 km east of Botsalano), which is a more polluted location with both pyrometallurgical industries and informal settlements nearby. The median total concentration of aerosol particles was more than four times as high at Marikana than at Botsalano. In the size ranges of 12-840 nm, 50-840 nm and 100-840 nm the median concentrations were 1856, 1278 and 698 particles cm-3 at Botsalano and 7805, 3843 and 1634 particles cm -3 at Marikana, respectively. The diurnal variation of the size distribution for Botsalano arose as a result of frequent regional new particle formation. However, for Marikana the diurnal variation was dominated by the morning and evening household burning in the informal settlements, although regional new particle formation was even more frequent than at Botsalano. The effect of the industrial emissions was not discernible in the size distribution at Marikana although it was clear in the sulphur dioxide diurnal pattern, indicating the emissions to be mostly gaseous. Seasonal variation was strongest in the concentration of particles larger than 100 nm, which was clearly elevated at both locations during the dry season from May to September. In the absence of wet removal during the dry season, the concentration of particles larger than 100 nm had a correlation above 0.7 with CO for both locations, which implies incomplete burning to be an important source of aerosol particles during the dry season. However, the sources of burning differ: at Botsalano the rise in concentration originates from regional wild fires, while at Marikana domestic heating in the informal settlements is the main source. Air mass history analysis for Botsalano identified four regional scale source areas in southern Africa and enabled the differentiation between fresh and aged rural background aerosol originating from the clean sector, i.e., western sector with very few large anthropogenic sources. Comparison to size distributions published for other comparable environments in Northern Hemisphere shows southern African savannah to have a unique combination of sources and meteorological parameters. The observed strong link between combustion and seasonal variation is comparable only to the Amazon basin; however, the lack of long-term observations in the Amazonas does not allow a quantitative comparison. All the data presented in the figures, as well as the time series of monthly mean and median size distributions are included in numeric form as a Supplement to provide a reference point for the aerosol modelling community. © 2013 Author(s).

Laakso L.,Finnish Meteorological Institute | Laakso L.,North West University South Africa | Merikanto J.,University of Helsinki | Vakkari V.,University of Helsinki | And 11 more authors.
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics | Year: 2013

The South African savannah region is a complex environment of air pollution and natural emissions influenced by a strong seasonal cycle in biomass burning and strong precipitation. However, the scarcity of long-term observations means that the knowledge of controlling aerosol processes in this environment is limited. Here we use a recent dataset of 18 months of aerosol size distribution observations trying to understand the annual cycle of cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). Our observations show that the concentration of CCN-sized particles remains, in line with previous studies, high throughout the year with the highest concentrations during the dry winter and the lowest during the wet summer. During the wet season with reduced anthropogenic and biomass burning primary emissions, this pool of CCN is partly filled by boundary layer nucleation with subsequent growth. The enhanced importance of formation and growth during the wet season is addressed to increased biogenic activity together with enhanced free tropospheric removal decreasing the concentration of pre-existing CCN. During the dry season, while frequent new particle formation takes place, particle growth is reduced due to reduced condensing vapour concentrations. Thus in the dry season particles are not able to grow to sizes where they may act as CCN nearly as efficiently as during the wet season. The observations are compared to simulations by a global aerosol model GLOMAP. To our surprise, the global aerosol model utilized to explain the observations was not capable of re-producing the characteristics of particle formation and the annual CCN cycle, despite earlier good performance in predicting the particle concentrations in a number of diverse environments, including the South African savannah region. While the average yearly CCN concentrations of modelled CCN is close to observed concentrations, the characteristics of nucleation bursts and subsequent growth are not captured satisfactory by the model. Our sensitivity tests using different nucleation parameterizations and condensing organic vapour production rates show that neither of these is likely to explain the differences between observed and modelled nucleation and growth rates. A sensitivity study varying 28 modelling parameters indicates that the main uncertainties in the result are due to uncertainties in biomass burning emissions during the dry season, and anthropogenic sulphur emissions during the wet season, both in terms or emitted mass and particle sizes. The uncertainties appear to be mostly related to uncertainties in primary particle emissions, including the emissions variability not captured by monthly emission inventories. The results of this paper also highlights the fact that deficiencies in emissions estimates may result in deficiencies in particle production fluxes, while the end product such as modelled CCN concentration may be in line with observations. © Author(s) 2013.

Van Zyl P.G.,North West University South Africa | Beukes J.P.,North West University South Africa | Du Toit G.,North West University South Africa | Mabaso D.,Rustenburg Local Municipality | And 7 more authors.
South African Journal of Science | Year: 2014

Trace metal species emitted into the atmosphere from natural and anthropogenic sources can cause various health-related and environmental problems. Limited data exist for atmospheric trace metal concentrations in South Africa, which has the largest industrialised economy in Africa, with significant mining and metallurgical activities. A large fraction of these mineral assets is concentrated in the Bushveld Igneous Complex, with the western limb being the most exploited. To partially address this knowledge gap, atmospheric trace metals were collected in the western Bushveld Igneous Complex at Marikana in the North West Province. Diurnal PM2.5 and PM 10 samples were collected for 1 year. A total of 27 trace metal species were determined. With the exception of Ni, none of the trace metals measured during the sampling period exceeded local or international air quality standard limit values. Total trace metal concentrations in the PM10 fraction peaked during the dry months and were regularly washed out during the wet season. A less significant seasonal trend was observed for the trace metal concentrations in the PM2.5 fraction; a finding attributed to a faster replenishment of smaller particles into the atmosphere after rain events. About 80% of the PM10 trace metal levels measured occurred in the PM 2.5 fraction, while 40% or more of all metals emanated from the PM2.5 fraction. This finding indicated a strong influence of anthropogenic sources. Four meaningful emission sources were determined from explorative principal component factor analysis: crustal, vanadium related, base metal related and ferrochromium related, which correlated well with the anticipated atmospheric trace metal sources in the region. © 2014. The Authors. The Authors.

Hirsikko A.,Finnish Meteorological Institute | Hirsikko A.,University of Helsinki | Vakkari V.,University of Helsinki | Tiitta P.,University of Eastern Finland | And 13 more authors.
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics | Year: 2012

South Africa holds significant mineral resources, with a substantial fraction of these reserves occurring and being processed in a large geological structure termed the Bushveld Igneous Complex (BIC). The area is also highly populated by informal, semi-formal and formal residential developments. However, knowledge of air quality and research related to the atmosphere is still very limited in the area. In order to investigate the characteristics and processes affecting sub-micron particle number concentrations and formation events, air ion and aerosol particle size distributions and number concentrations, together with meteorological parameters, trace gases and particulate matter (PM) were measured for over two years at Marikana in the heart of the western BIC. The observations showed that trace gas (i.e. SO2, NOx, CO) and black carbon concentrations were relatively high, but in general within the limits of local air quality standards. The area was characterised by very high condensation sink due to background aerosol particles, PM10 and O3 concentration. The results indicated that high amounts of Aitken and accumulation mode particles originated from domestic burning for heating and cooking in the morning and evening, while during daytime SO2-based nucleation followed by the growth by condensation of vapours from industrial, residential and natural sources was the most probable source for large number concentrations of nucleation and Aitken mode particles. Nucleation event day frequency was extremely high, i.e. 86% of the analysed days, which to the knowledge of the authors is the highest frequency ever reported. The air mass back trajectory and wind direction analyses showed that the secondary particle formation was influenced both by local and regional pollution and vapour sources. Therefore, our observation of the annual cycle and magnitude of the particle formation and growth rates during nucleation events were similar to results previously published for a semi-clean savannah site in South Africa. © 2012 Author(s).

Venter A.D.,North West University South Africa | Vakkari V.,University of Helsinki | Beukes J.P.,North West University South Africa | Van Zyl P.G.,North West University South Africa | And 10 more authors.
South African Journal of Science | Year: 2012

South Africa has the largest industrialised economy in Africa, with significant mining and metallurgical activities. A large fraction of the South African mineral assets is concentrated in the Bushveld Igneous Complex (BIC), with the western limb being the most exploited. Because the majority of the world's platinum is produced in the BIC, this area is also of international interest. There are some indications that the western BIC should be considered an air pollution hotspot; however, inadequate data exist to substantiate these claims scientifically. To partially address this knowledge gap, a comprehensive air quality monitoring station was operated for more than 2 years in this area. Meteorological parameters, trace gas concentrations and total mass concentration of particulate matter up to 10 μm in size (PM10) were measured. Compared with South African and European ambient air quality standards, SO 2, NO2 and CO concentrations were generally acceptable. The major sources of SO2 were identified as high-stack industry emissions, while household combustion from semi-formal and informal settlements was identified as the predominant source of NO2 and CO. In contrast, O3 exceeded the 8-h moving average more than 322 times per year. The main contributing factor was identified to be the influx of regional air masses, with high O3 precursor concentrations. PM10 exceeded the current South African 24-h standard 6.6 times per year, the future (2015) standard 42.3 times per year and the European standard more than 120 times per year. The main source of PM10 was identified as household combustion from semi-formal and informal settlements. The findings clearly indicate that atmospheric O3 and PM10 levels in the western BIC need to be addressed to avoid negative environmental and human health impacts. © 2012. The Authors.

Vakkari V.,University of Helsinki | Laakso H.,University of Helsinki | Kulmala M.,University of Helsinki | Laaksonen A.,Finnish Meteorological Institute | And 7 more authors.
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics | Year: 2011

This study is based on 18 months (20 July 2006-5 February 2008) of continuous measurements of aerosol particle size distributions, air ion size distributions, trace gas concentrations and basic meteorology in a semi-clean savannah environment in Republic of South Africa. New particle formation and growth was observed on 69% of the days and bursts of non-growing ions/sub-10 nm particles on additional 14% of the days. This new particle formation frequency is the highest reported from boundary layer so far. Also the new particle formation and growth rates were among the highest reported in the literature for continental boundary layer locations; median 10 nm formation rate was 2.2 cm-3 s-1 and median 10-30 nm growth rate 8.9 nm hg -1. The median 2 nm ion formation rate was 0.5 cm-3 sg-1 and the median ion growth rates were 6.2, 8.0 and 8.1 nm hg -1 for size ranges 1.5-3 nm, 3-7 nm and 7-20 nm, respectively. The growth rates had a clear seasonal dependency with minimum during winter and maxima in spring and late summer. The relative contribution of estimated sulphuric acid to the growth rate was decreasing with increasing particle size and could explain more than 20% of the observed growth rate only for the 1.5-3 nm size range. Also the air mass history analysis indicated the highest formation and growth rates to be associated with the area of highest VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) emissions following from biological activity rather than the highest estimated sulphuric acid concentrations. The frequency of new particle formation, however, increased nearly monotonously with the estimated sulphuric acid reaching 100% at H2SO4 concentration of 6 · 107 cm-3, which suggests the formation and growth to be independent of each other. © 2011 Author(s).

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