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Characterization of Valley Winter Woodsmoke Concentrations in Northern NY Using Highly Time-Resolved Measurements

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Volume: 11 | Issue: 5 | Pages: 519-530
DOI: 10.4209/aaqr.2011.03.0031
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George A. Allen 1, Paul J. Miller2, Lisa J. Rector3, Michael Brauer4, Jason G. Su5

  • 1 NESCAUM, Tel: 617-259-2035; Fax: 617-742-9162;, USA
  • 2 NESCAUM, Tel: 617-259-2016; Fax: 617-742-9162;, USA
  • 3 NESCAUM, Tel: 802-899-5306; Fax: 802-899-5305;, USA
  • 4 The University of British Columbia, Tel: 604-822-9585; Fax: 604 822 9588; , Canada
  • 5 University of California-Berkeley, Tel: 510-643-0102; Fax: 510-642-5815; , USA


The increasing popularity of wood fired heating appliances in cold winter climates has focused attention on assessment of woodsmoke exposures. Pollution from residential wood combustion (RWC) is a major concern in areas with valley topography where nighttime inversions limit the dispersion of pollutants from ground-level sources. An intensive characterization of ambient particulate mater (PM) from RWC was performed in northern New York State during winter 2008–2009 in an area where the 2005 U.S. EPA National Emissions Inventory shows RWC to be the largest source of PM2.5. Measurements of woodsmoke PM were made using optical scattering and absorption techniques during repeated night-time mobile monitoring to provide data with high spatial and temporal resolution; measurements were also made at six fixed sites for the study period to provide temporal context for the mobile measurements. The difference in optical absorption at near-infrared and near-ultraviolet wavelengths was used as a specific marker for woodsmoke PM. Woodsmoke was the only significant contributor to elevated night-time valley PM concentrations during mobile run nights; short-term (3 minute) PM concentrations frequently exceeded 100 µg/m3. Concentrations observed with mobile monitoring were consistently elevated at valley bottoms where the majority of the population lives, and approached zero outside of valleys. Data from fixed sites indicated that woodsmoke levels peaked near midnight, with a secondary peak around 7 AM and a mid-day minimum. These patterns are consistent with RWC use and diurnal patterns of atmospheric dispersion.


Aethalometer Nephelometer Spatial variability Mobile measurements Outdoor wood boilers, Woodsmoke

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