Chemical characteristics of precipitation at metropolitan Newark in the US East Coast

Fei Song, Yuan Gao

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101 Scopus citations


To investigate the chemical characteristics of precipitation in the polluted coastal atmosphere, a total of 46 event-based precipitation samples were collected using a wet-only automatic precipitation collector from September 2006 to October 2007 at metropolitan Newark, New Jersey in the US East Coast. Samples were analyzed by ion chromatography for the concentrations of major inorganic ions (Cl-, NO3-, SO42-, F-, NH4+, Ca2+, Mg2+, Na+, K+) and organic acid species (CH3COO-, HCOO-, CH2(COO)22-, C2O42-). Selected trace metals (Sb, Pb, Al, V, Fe, Cr, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, Cd) in samples were determined by ICPMS. Mass concentration results show that SO42- was the most dominant anion accounting for 51% of the total anions, controlling the acidity of the precipitation. NH4+ accounted for 48.6% of the total cations, dominating the precipitation neutralization. CH3COO- and HCOO- were the two dominant water-soluble organic acid species, accounting for 42% and 40% of the total organic acids analyzed, respectively. Al, Zn and Fe were the three major trace metals in precipitation, accounting for 34%, 27%, and 25% of the total mass of metals analyzed. The pH values in precipitation ranged from 4.4 to 4.9, indicating an acidic nature. Enrichment Factor (EF) Analysis showed that Na+, Cl-, Mg2+ and K+ in the precipitation were primarily of marine origin, while most of the Fe, Co and Al were from crust sources. Pb, V, Cr, Ni were moderately enriched with EFs ranging 43-410, while Zn, Sb, Cu, Cd and F- were highly enriched with EFs > 700, indicating significant anthropogenic influences. Factor analysis suggests 6 major sources contributing to the observed composition of precipitation at this location: (1) nitrogen-enriched soil, (2) secondary pollution processes, (3) marine sources, (4) incinerations, (5) oil combustions, and (6) malonate-vanadium enriched sources. To further explore the source-precipitation event relationships and seasonality, cluster analysis was performed for all precipitation events. Results show that about half of the precipitation events were characterized by mixed sources. Significant influences of nitrogen-enriched soil and marine sources were associated with precipitation events in spring and autumn, while secondary pollution processes, incineration and oil combustion contributed greatly in summer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4903-4913
Number of pages11
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number32
StatePublished - Oct 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Environmental Science
  • Atmospheric Science


  • Anions and cations
  • Cluster analysis
  • Enrichment factor
  • Factor analysis
  • Precipitation
  • Trace metals
  • Urban


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