Fine iron aerosols are internally mixed with nitrate in the urban european atmosphere

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

External organisations

  • Department of Environmental Sciences / Center of Excellence in Environmental Studies, King Abdulaziz University, PO Box 80203, Jeddah, 21589, Saudi Arabia
  • Institut de Ciències Del Mar, CSIC
  • Istanbul University


Atmospheric iron aerosol is a bioavailable essential nutrient playing a role in oceanic productivity. Using Aerosol Time-Of-Flight Mass Spectrometry (ATOFMS), the particle size (0.3-1.5 μm), chemical composition and mixing state of Fe-containing particles collected at two European urban sites (London and Barcelona) were characterised. Out of the six particle types accounting for the entire Fe-aerosol population, that arising from long range transport (LRT) of fine Fe-containing particles (Fe-LRT, 54-82% across the two sites) was predominant. This particle type was found to be internally mixed with nitrate and not with sulphate, and likely mostly associated with urban traffic activities. This is in profound contrast with previous studies carried out in Asia, where the
majority of iron-containing particles are mixed with sulphate and are of coal combustion origin. Other minor fine iron aerosol sources included mineral dust (8-11%), traffic brake wear material (1-17%), shipping/oil (1-6%), biomass combustion (4-13%) and vegetative debris (1-3%). Overall - relative to anthropogenic Asian Fe-sulphate dust - anthropogenic European dust internally mixed with additional key nutrients such as nitrate is likely to play a different role in ocean global biogeochemical cycles.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4212-4220
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2016