Quantifying bioaerosol concentrations in dust clouds through online UV-LIF and mass spectrometry measurements at the Cape Verde Atmospheric Observatory

Douglas Morrison, Ian Crawford, Nicholas Marsden , Michael Flynn, Katie Read, Luis Neves, Virginia Foot, Paul H. Kaye, Warren Stanley, Hugh Coe, David Topping, Martin W Gallagher

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Observations of the long-range transport of biological particles in the tropics via dust vectors are now seen as fundamental to the understanding of many global atmosphere–ocean biogeochemical cycles, changes in air quality, human health, ecosystem impacts, and climate. However, there is a lack of long-term measurements quantifying their presence in such conditions. Here, we present annual observations of bioaerosol concentrations based on online ultraviolet laser-induced fluorescence (UV-LIF) spectrometry from the World Meteorological Organization – Global Atmospheric Watch (WMO-GAW) Cape Verde Atmospheric Observatory on São Vicente. We observe the expected strong seasonal changes in absolute concentrations of bioaerosols with significant enhancements during winter due to the strong island inflow of air mass, originating from the African continent. Monthly median bioaerosol concentrations as high as 45 L−1 were found with 95th percentile values exceeding 130 L−1 during strong dust events. However, in contrast, the relative fraction of bioaerosol numbers compared to total dust number concentration shows little seasonal variation. Mean bioaerosol contributions accounted for 0.4 ± 0.2 % of total coarse aerosol concentrations, only rarely exceeding 1 % during particularly strong events under appropriate conditions. Although enhancements in the median bioaerosol fraction do occur in winter, they also occur at other times of the year, likely due to the enhanced Aeolian activity driving dust events at this time from different sources. We hypothesise that this indicates the relative contribution of bioaerosol material in dust transported across the tropical Atlantic throughout the year is relatively uniform, comprised mainly of mixtures of dust and bacteria and/or bacterial fragments. We argue that this hypothesis is supported from analysis of measurements also at Cabo Verde just prior to the long-term monitoring experiment where UV-LIF single particle measurements were compared with laser ablation aerosol particle time-of-flight mass spectrometer (LAAP-ToF) measurements. These clearly show a very high correlation between particles with mixed biosilicate mass spectral signatures and UV-LIF biofluorescent signatures suggesting the bioaerosol concentrations are dominated by these mixtures. These observations should assist with constraining bioaerosol concentrations for tropical global climate model (GCM) simulations. Note that here we use the term “bioaerosol” to include mixtures of dust and bacterial material.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14473–14490
Number of pages18
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2020


  • Bioaerosol
  • Instrumentation
  • MBS
  • Multiparameter Bioaerosol Spectrometer
  • Cape Verde


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