Comparison of methods for evaluation of wood smoke and estimation of UK ambient concentrations

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Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham
  • Department of Environmental Sciences / Center of Excellence in Environmental Studies, King Abdulaziz University, PO Box 80203, Jeddah, 21589, Saudi Arabia


Airborne concentrations of the wood smoke tracers, levoglucosan and fine potassium have been measured at urban and rural sites in the United Kingdom alongside measurements with a multi-wavelength aethalometer. The UK sites, and especially those in cities, show low ratios of levoglucosan to potassium in comparison to the majority of published data. It is concluded that there may be two distinct source types, one from wood stoves and fireplaces with a high organic carbon content, best represented by levoglucosan, the other from larger, modern appliances with a very high burn-out efficiency, best represented by potassium. Based upon levoglucosan concentrations and a conversion factor of 11.2 from levoglucosan to wood smoke mass, average concentrations of wood smoke including winter and summer sampling periods are 0.23 μg m−3 in Birmingham and 0.33 μg m−3 in London, well below concentrations typical of other northern European urban areas. There may be a further contribution from sources of potassium-rich emissions amounting to an estimated 0.08 μg m−3 in Birmingham and 0.30 μg m−3 in London. Concentrations were highly correlated between two London sites separated by 4 km suggesting that a regional source is responsible. Data from the aethalometer are either supportive of these conclusions or suggest higher concentrations, depending upon the way in which the data are analysed.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8271-8283
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sep 2012