Sources and Transport of Black Carbon at the United States-Mexico Border near San Diego-Tijuana

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Virginia Tech

At international border areas that suffer from poor quality, assessment of pollutant sources and transport across the border is important for designing effective air quality management strategies. As part of the Cal-Mex 2010 field campaign at the US-Mexico border in San Diego and Tijuana, we measured black carbon (BC) concentrations at three locations in Mexico and one in the United States. The measurements were intended to support the following objectives: to characterize the spatial and temporal variability in BC concentrations and emissions in the border region, to identify potential source areas of BC emissions, and to characterize the cross-border transport of BC and assess its impact on local and regional air quality. BC concentrations at Parque Morelos, the campaign's supersite, averaged 2.1 ?g m?? and reached a maximum value of 55.9 ?g m??. This average value is comparable to levels in large American cities like Los Angeles and similarly sized Mexican cities like Mexicali. The maximum value occurred near midnight, and similar incidents were observed on nearly half of the overnight monitoring periods. BC and carbon monoxide (CO) were strongly correlated at the Mexican sites. The BC/CO ratio was ~3 times higher in Tijuana than in Mexico City, suggesting that gasoline-powered vehicles in Tijuana emit more BC than is typical or that diesel vehicles comprise a relatively high proportion of the vehicle fleet. Tijuana's emissions of BC are estimated to be 380-1470 metric tons yr??. BC measurements were used in conjunction with modeled wind fields to simulate forward and backward particle trajectories. Generally, BC in Tijuana appears to originate locally, as backward simulations showed transport from the US into Mexico at only one site. The majority of the trajectory analyses indicate that there is often transport from Tijuana into the US, crossing the border in a northeasterly direction to the east of San Diego-Tijuana and sometimes as far east as Imperial County at the eastern edge of California. These results suggest that any air quality management strategies considering BC should account for contributions from the border region, as BC is chemically inert in the atmosphere and can travel up to thousands of kilometers.

trajectory modeling, air pollution, black carbon, cross-border transport