Analysis of rainwater dissolved organic carbon using fluorescence spectrophotometry

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Global rainwater dissolved organic carbon (DOC) flux was recently estimated as 430 x 10(12) g C yr(-1), yet little is known about the wide range of chemical compounds present, their sources, temporal patterns of variation, and the subsequent impact on climate and the environment. Precipitation events were sampled in Birmingham, UK between April 2005 and May 2007. Rainwater DOC compounds were analysed using fluorescence spectrophotometry. Three fluorophores were identified: HUmic-LIke Substances (HULIS), TYrosine-LIke Substances (TYLIS) and TRYptophan-LIke Substances (TRYLIS). Peak fluorescence intensities and locations for each substance were examined, and their variations with various meteorological parameters were investigated. The mean HULIS fluorescence intensity from all events was 209 a.u. (with sample fluorescence ranging from 37 a.u. to 995 am); mean fluorescence intensity was 469 a.u. (214-988 a.u) and 265 a.u. (50-876 a.u.) for TYLIS and TRYLIS, respectively. Results indicate that highest HULIS fluorescence intensities are experienced during convective events and events of continental origin, suggesting terrestrial/anthropogenic sources. Under well-mixed conditions, HULIS fluorescence intensity decreases, whereas during low wind speed, stagnation of the atmosphere results in higher fluorescence intensities, attributed to a build up of localised sources, particularly anthropogenic. TYLIS and TRYLIS did not show any significant trends for the meteorological variables. Fluorescence spectrophotometry is a fast, non-invasive technique which is demonstrated to be a powerful means of fingerprinting rainfall DOC compounds in real time for small sample volumes. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8036-8045
Number of pages10
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008


  • Tyrosine-like, DOC, Precipitation, Urban, Tryptophan-like, HULIS