New particle growth and shrinkage observed in subtropical environments
Abstract. We present the first systematic analysis for new particle formation (NPF), growth and shrinkage of new particles at four different sites in subtropical central Taiwan. A total of 14 NPF events were identified from 137 days of ambient measurements during a cold and warm season. The measured formation rates of 10 nm particles (J10) and growth rates were in the range of 4.4–30 cm−3 s−1 and 7.4–24 nm h−1, respectively. The onset of NPF events coincided with decreases of condensation sink (CS) and increases of SO2 under enhanced atmospheric mixing and dilution. However, the lower or comparable SO2 on event days than on non-event days suggests that SO2 was not a limiting factor for NPF. On non-event days, the particle number concentrations were mostly driven by traffic emissions. We also observed shrinkage of new particles, the reversal of growth, during five out of the identified secondary formation. UFP particles events. In intense cases, the grown particles shrank back to the smallest measurable size of ~10 nm, thereby creating a unique "arch-like" shape in the size distribution contour plot. The particle shrinkage rates ranged from −5.1 to −7.6 nm h−1. The corresponding particle volume losses suggest that a notable fraction of the condensable species that contributed to growth was semi-volatile. The particle shrinkage was related to enhanced atmospheric dilution, high ambient temperature and low relative humidity, thus favoring the evaporation of semi-volatile species from the particulate phase to the gas phase. Our observations show that the new particle growth could be a reversible process, in which the evaporating semi-volatile species are important for the growth of new particles to sizes of environmental health concerns.