Source seasonality of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in a subtropical city, Guangzhou, South China

J. Li, G. Zhang, Xiangdong Li, S. H. Qi, G. Q. Liu, X. Z. Peng

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

299 Citations (Scopus)


Mega-cities are large sources of air pollution on a regional base. Differences in energy structures, geographical settings and regional climate features lead to a large variety of air pollution sources from place to place. To understand the seasonality of air pollution sources is critical to precise emission inventories and a sound protection of human health. Based on a year-round dataset, the sources of PAHs in the air of Guangzhou were drawn by principal factor analysis (PCA) in combination with diagnostic ratios, and the seasonality of these sources were analyzed by PCA/MLR (multiple linear regressions) and discussed. The average total gaseous and particulate PAHs concentrations were 313 and 23.7 ng m- 3, respectively, with a higher concentration of vapor PAHs in summer and particulate PAHs in winter. In addition to vehicle exhaust, which contributed 69% of the particulate PAHs, coal combustion was still an important source and contributed 31% of the particulate PAHs. Relatively constant contribution from coal combustion was found through the year, implying that coal combustion in power plants was not a seasonally dependent source. Evaporation from contaminated ground may be an important source of light PAHs in summer, providing an average contribution of 68% to the total PAHs in this study. By comparing the PAH concentrations and meteorological parameters, we found that higher concentrations of particulate PAHs in winter resulted from enhanced vehicle exhaust under low temperature and accumulation of pollutants under decreased boundary layer, slower wind speed, and long-term dryness conditions. It is suggested that the typical subtropical monsoon climate in South China, cool and dry in winter, hot and humid in summer, may play a key role in controlling the source seasonality (by enhancing vehicle exhaust in winter, ground evaporation in summer), and hence the ambient concentrations of PAHs in the air.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-155
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2006


  • Concentrations
  • Meteorological effect
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • Source seasonality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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