A statistical analysis of North East Atlantic (submicron) aerosol size distributions
Abstract. The Global Atmospheric Watch research station at Mace Head (Ireland) offers the possibility to sample some of the cleanest air masses being imported into Europe as well as some of the most polluted being exported out of Europe. We present a statistical cluster analysis of the physical characteristics of aerosol size distributions in air ranging from the cleanest to the most polluted for the year 2008. Data coverage achieved was 75% throughout the year. By applying the Hartigan-Wong k-Means method, 12 clusters were identified as systematically occurring. These 12 clusters could be further combined into 4 categories with similar characteristics, namely: coastal nucleation category (occurring 21.3 % of the time), open ocean nucleation category (occurring 32.6% of the time), background clean marine category (occurring 26.1% of the time) and anthropogenic category (occurring 20% of the time) aerosol size distributions. The coastal nucleation category is characterised by a clear and dominant nucleation mode at sizes less than 10 nm while the open ocean nucleation category is characterised by a dominant Aitken mode between 15 nm and 50 nm. The background clean marine aerosol exhibited a clear bimodality in the sub-micron size distribution, with although it should be noted that either the Aitken mode or the accumulation mode may dominate the number concentration. However, peculiar background clean marine size distributions with coarser accumulation modes are also observed during winter months. By contrast, the continentally-influenced size distributions are generally more monomodal (accumulation), albeit with traces of bimodality. The open ocean category occurs more often during May, June and July, corresponding with the North East (NE) Atlantic high biological period. Combined with the relatively high percentage frequency of occurrence (32.6%), this suggests that the marine biota is an important source of new nano aerosol particles in NE Atlantic Air.