A significant concern for public health and visibility is airborne particulate matter, especially during extreme events. Of most relevance for health, air quality, and climate is the role of fine aerosol particles, specifically particulate matter with aerodynamic diameters less than or equal to 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5). The purpose of this study was to examine PM2.5 extreme events between 1989 and 2018 at Mesa Verde, Colorado using Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments (IMPROVE) monitoring data. Extreme events were identified as those with PM2.5 on a given day exceeding the 90th percentile value for that given month. We examine the weekly, monthly, and interannual trends in the number of extreme events at Mesa Verde, in addition to identifying the sources of the extreme events with the aid of the Navy Aerosol Analysis and Prediction (NAAPS) aerosol model. Four sources were used in the classification scheme: Asian dust, non-Asian dust, smoke, and “other”. Our results show that extreme PM2.5 events in the spring are driven mostly by the dust categories, whereas summertime events are influenced largely by smoke. The colder winter months have more influence from “other” sources that are thought to be largely anthropogenic in nature. No weekly cycle was observed for the number of events due to each source; however, interannual analysis shows that the relative amount of dust and smoke events compared to “other” events have increased in the last decade, especially smoke since 2008. The results of this work indicate that, to minimize and mitigate the effects of extreme PM2.5 events in the southwestern Colorado area, it is important to focus mainly on smoke and dust forecasting in the spring and summer months. Wintertime extreme events may be easier to regulate as they derive more from anthropogenic pollutants accumulating in shallow boundary layers in stagnant conditions.
- Extreme PM events
- Mesa Verde
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Science (miscellaneous)