Behavior of ultrafine particles in continental and marine air masses at a rural site in the United Kingdom

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    Particle size distribution measurements were made at a coastal site in the United Kingdom. These are presented, and the behavior of recently formed ultrafine particles is discussed. No ultrafine particles were observed in maritime air masses; however, 3 to 7 nm particles were frequently observed at enhanced concentrations when the wind direction was from the land. Their formation was favored at lower temperatures, when 1 ppbv or more of SO2 was present and in air masses that had not been aged extensively. On days when enhanced ultrafine particle concentrations were observed, 3 nm particles increased sharply in the morning, approximately 30 to 90 min after the UV solar flux first increased. By early afternoon the ultrafine particle concentration had returned to background levels. Rapid measurements of 5 nm particles showed no correlation with turbulence parameters, although the boundary layer mixing scales were similar to growth times of freshly nucleated particles to 5 nm diameter. However, ultrafine particle concentrations do correlate with the availability of sulphuric acid vapor. A delay of approximately an hour between the increase of H2SO4 in the morning and a large increase in ultrafine particle concentrations is due to the growth of particles to observable sizes, not the nucleation process itself. An analysis of the timescales for growth showed that coagulation may be important immediately after the particles have nucleated but its effectiveness reduces as number concentration falls. Conversely, growth by condensation is initially slow due to the Kelvin effect but increases in importance as the particles reach observable sizes. Copyright 2000 by the American Geophysical Union.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number2000JD900234
    Pages (from-to)26891-26905
    Number of pages14
    JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
    Issue number22
    Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2000


    • aqueous-phase-transitions
    • boundary-layer
    • atmospheric aerosols
    • sulfuric-acid
    • growth
    • nucleation
    • troposphere
    • nuclei
    • temperature
    • humidity


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