Articles | Volume 13, issue 24
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 12495–12506, 2013

Special issue: Haze in China (HaChi 2009–2010)

Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 12495–12506, 2013

Research article 20 Dec 2013

Research article | 20 Dec 2013

Characteristics of regional new particle formation in urban and regional background environments in the North China Plain

Z. B. Wang1,3,*, M. Hu1, J. Y. Sun2, Z. J. Wu1,3, D. L. Yue1, X. J. Shen2, Y. M. Zhang2, X. Y. Pei1,4, Y. F. Cheng5, and A. Wiedensohler3 Z. B. Wang et al.
  • 1State Key Joint Laboratory of Environmental Simulation and Pollution Control, College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
  • 2Key Laboratory for Atmospheric Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, Beijing 100081, China
  • 3Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research, Permoserstr. 15, Leipzig 04318, Germany
  • 4Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology, Atmospheric Science, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg 41296, Sweden
  • 5Multiphase Chemistry Department, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz 55128, Germany
  • *now at: Multiphase Chemistry Department, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz 55128, Germany

Abstract. Long-term measurements of particle number size distributions were carried out both at an urban background site (Peking University, PKU) and a regional Global Atmospheric Watch station (Shangdianzi, SDZ) from March to November in 2008. In total, 52 new particle formation (NPF) events were observed simultaneously at both sites, indicating that this is a regional phenomenon in the North China Plain. On average, the mean condensation sink value before the nucleation events started was 0.025 s−1 in the urban environment, which was 1.6 times higher than that at regional site. However, higher particle formation and growth rates were observed at PKU (10.8 cm−3 s−1 and 5.2 nm h−1) compared with those at SDZ (4.9 cm−3 s−1 and 4.0 nm h−1). These results implied that precursors were much more abundant in the polluted urban environment. Different from the observations in cleaner environments, the background conditions of the observed particle homogeneous nucleation events in the North China Plain could be characterized as the co-existing of a stronger source of precursor gases and a higher condensational sink of pre-existing aerosol particles. Secondary aerosol formation following nucleation events results in an increase of particle mass concentration, particle light scattering coefficient, and cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) number concentration, with consequences on visibility, radiative effects, and air quality. Typical regional NPF events with significant particle nucleation rates and subsequent particle growth over a sufficiently long time period at both sites were chosen to investigate the influence of NPF on the number concentration of "potential" CCN. As a result, the NPF and the subsequent condensable growth increased the CCN number concentration in the North China Plain by factors in the range from 5.6 to 8.7. Moreover, the potential contribution of anthropogenic emissions to the CCN number concentration was more than 50%, to which more attention should be drawn in regional and global climate modeling, especially in the polluted urban areas.

Final-revised paper