Environmental science & technology

Real-Time detection and mixing state of methanesulfonate in single particles at an inland urban location during a phytoplankton bloom.

PMID 20121235


Dimethyl sulfide (DMS), produced by oceanic phytoplankton, is oxidized to form methanesulfonic acid (MSA) and sulfate, which influence particle chemistry and hygroscopicity. Unlike sulfate, MSA has no known anthropogenic source making it a useful tracer for ocean-derived biogenic sulfur. Despite numerous observations of MSA, predominately in marine environments, the production pathways of MSA have remained elusive highlighting the need for additional measurements, particularly at inland locations. During the Study of Organic Aerosols in Riverside, CA from July-August 2005, MSA was detected in submicrometer and supermicrometer particles using real-time, single-particle mass spectrometry. MSA was detected due to blooms of DMS-producing organisms along the California coast. The detection of MSA depended on both the origin of the sampled air mass as well as the concentration of oceanic chlorophyll present. MSA was mainly mixed with coastally emitted particle types implying that partitioning of MSA occurred before transport to Riverside. Importantly, particles containing vanadium had elevated levels of MSA compared to particles not containing vanadium, suggesting a possible catalytic role of vanadium in MSA formation. This study demonstrates how anthropogenic, metal-containing aerosols can enhance the atmospheric processing of biogenic emissions, which needs to be considered when modeling coastal as well as urban locations.