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, 36 (23), 4981-9

Aircraft Measurements of Nitrogen and Phosphorus in and Around the Lake Tahoe Basin: Implications for Possible Sources of Atmospheric Pollutants to Lake Tahoe

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Aircraft Measurements of Nitrogen and Phosphorus in and Around the Lake Tahoe Basin: Implications for Possible Sources of Atmospheric Pollutants to Lake Tahoe

Qi Zhang et al. Environ Sci Technol.

Abstract

Atmospheric deposition of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) into Lake Tahoe appears to have been a major factor responsible for the shifting of the lake's nutrient response from N-limited to P-limited. To characterize atmospheric N and P in and around the Lake Tahoe Basin during summer, samples were collected using an instrumented aircraft flown over three locations: the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento ("low-Sierra"), further east and higher in the Sierra ("mid-Sierra"), and in the Tahoe Basin. Measurements were also made within the smoke plume downwind of an intense forest fire just outside the Tahoe Basin. Samples were collected using a denuder-filter pack sampling system (DFP) and analyzed for gaseous and water-soluble particle components including HNO3/ NO3-, NH3 /NH4+, organic N (ON), total N, SRP (soluble reactive phosphate) and total P. The average total gaseous and particulate N concentrations (+/- 1sigma) measured over the low- and mid-Sierra were 660 (+/- 270) and 630 (+/- 350) nmol N/m3-air, respectively. Total airborne N concentrations in the Tahoe samples were one-half to one-fifth of these values. The forest fire plume had the highest concentration of atmospheric N (860 nmol N/m3-air) and a greater contribution of organic N (ON) to the total N compared to nonsmoky conditions. Airborne P was rarely observed over the low- and mid-Sierra but was present at low concentrations over Lake Tahoe, with average +/- 1sigma) concentrations of 2.3 +/- 2.9 and 2.8 +/- 0.8 nmol P/m3-air under typical clear air and slightly smoky air conditions, respectively. Phosphorus in the forestfire plume was present at concentrations approximately 10 times greater than over the Tahoe Basin. P in these samples included both fine and coarse particulate phosphate as well as unidentified, possibly organic, gaseous P species. Overall, our results suggest that out-of-basin emissions could be significant sources of nitrogen to Lake Tahoe during the summer and that forest fires could be important sources of both N and P.

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